Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

This book is a snapshot of life at a specific time in a specific place. Set in a small country town in the first half of the nineteenth century, it follows the lives of a group of women who are getting by on very little while still trying to maintain the standards they believe are proper and from which they cannot imagine straying.

The narrator is Mary, a young, single woman from another town who spends much of her time visiting friends in Cranford, a place populated mostly by widows and spinsters. I think it was a good move to have the reader look at Cranford from the viewpoint of an outsider. It kept the whole story from becoming too narrow and quaint. Mary is a clear-headed, down-to-earth girl who brings reality to situations that might otherwise seem a bit over the top. The reasoning behind the words and actions of other characters becomes clearer as Mary considers them, but this happens naturally in the writing and doesn't leave you feeling condescended to. I appreciated that aspect of the writing. Actually I liked everything about the writing. 

I love all these ladies trying so hard to maintain a level of propriety as their old way of life is slipping away from them. They are endearing, aggravating and wonderful, inspiring and a little bit sad. Their stories are quiet but they have heart, a lot of heart, and this is a book that leaves an impact. I thought it was lovely and I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10.


Judith said...

I must confess to something I plan to remedy this year: I have never read an Elizabeth Gaskell novel, yet I've always wanted to read her. Do you have a favorite, or should I just start with this one?
Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

Ordinary Reader said...

Judith - so sorry I'm just seeing this comment now. This is the only one of hers I've read so I'm not a good one to ask. I don't even know what else she has written, but I'm definitely going to find out and read more. Hope you find something you like!

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