Elizabeth Gaskell – Cranford

Four years ago, I read ‘North and South’ by Elizabeth Gaskell. I was very much impressed by this novel and also by the BBC television series that I watched after I’d read the novel. I was curious to read more of Mrs Gaskell’s work and at some point came across a second-hand copy of ‘Cranford’. ‘Cranford’ first appeared in serialized form between December 1851 and May 1853.

According to the back of my book, ‘Cranford’ was in Mrs Gaskell’s own estimation her most enjoyable. And that is exactly how I found it too. ‘Cranford’ portrays a small English village and its inhabitants through the eyes of a young(ish) woman who visits and corresponds with the ladies in this village. The Cranford ladies are a collection of elderly spinsters and widows and in the sixteen chapters of the book we learn about their daily affairs and their history.

‘Cranford’ is a very charming and sweet book and I don’t mean to sound condescending here at all. The events that are described are small, everyday occurrences and the people portrayed are ordinary. Yet, Elizabeth Gaskell is able to show that ordinary events can be touching. Furthermore, she is able to narrate the troubles, sorrows and happiness of these elderly ladies in such a way that they are no less moving than a passionate love-story would be. Most importantly, after a few chapters I really started to care about these ladies. And now that I’ve finished it I would like to have some tea with Miss Matty.

I would say ‘Cranford’ is a book to read on a rainy Saturday, on the sofa, with a nice cup of tea. It would be especially soothing after a stressful week. I hope I’ll get round to reading it again in a few years from now. In the mean time, I would like to hunt down the dvd’s of the recent BBC television series. I am very curious to see how they have televised it.

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