Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: “Cranford” by Elizabeth Gaskell

Before I begin discussing the first book I finished reading in 2016, I want to let all my fans know that I worked on getting Everlasting ready to be converted to Kindle this weekend and should be available any day now! As for an update on Bridget’s Journey the Sequel (yes…no official title yet), I finished plotting out every scene for the middle section of the novel on Scrivener and finished making some development decisions and such. All that is left to do in that area is WRITE!

Now to discuss Cranford (warning, this post includes quotes and *SPOILERS!*, so scim or skip if you want to read this incredible book first before reading).

If a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighboring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford. What could they do if they were there?

Cranford, page 3

Cranford. I read this sweet, 183 page book on my Kindle over Christmas break and finished it on Friday. It was written by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810-1865) and was published in 1851-53. The novel takes place entirely in Cranford (gasp!), a small town with few luxuries, but a great many middle-aged women who are either widowed or (more likely) spinsters. The main character is actually a young woman named Mary Smith and she recounts all of her visits to Cranford while staying at Miss Matty’s, a close friend of her father’s.

Mary tells her readers of all the shenanigans that the Cranford ladies experience, like a slew of robberies, a mysterious Turkish magician, past lovers visiting again and their little habitual practices, such as Miss Jenkyns’ obsession with not wasting their use of candles.

“It is very pleasant dining with a bachelor,” said Miss Matty softly, as we settled ourselves in the counting-house. “I only hope it is not improper; so many pleasant things are!”

Cranford, page 40

Although some unusual things do sometimes happen in Cranford, the people face the ordinary phases of life as well; new babies, marriage and death. *SPOILER!* There are quite a few deaths in Cranford, but it is relevant to the times. People get sick, people get old, people die. The writing of these scenes, though, was beautiful and made me envious–I hope I can write my death scenes as poignantly someday! The pain and loss that the characters felt was real, something the readers could relate to and made the story even more precious.

The Cranford ladies are silly, superstitious and occasionally proud, but their witty lines make up for all their faults. That being said, what I love most about the Cranford ladies is, when push comes to shove, they are loyal, generous and can even be quite selfless. More than once, when someone is in trouble, the Cranford ladies show their true colors when they go above and beyond to make sure that the person is looked after and receives what they need and plenty of it.

One situation in particular, toward the end of the book (*SPOILER!*) when Miss Matty loses everything, her loyal friends Miss Pole, Mrs. Forrester and Mrs. Fitz-Adam, give Miss Matty a collective amount of money per month so the latter can pay the rent, and all is to be done in secret.

“I have conversed in private – I made it my business to do so yesterday afternoon – with these ladies on the misfortune which has happened to our friend, and one and all of us have agreed that while we have a superfluity, it is not only a duty, but a pleasure – a true pleasure, Mary!” – [Miss Pole’s] voice was rather choked just here, and she had to wipe her spectacles before she could go on – “to give what we can to assist her – Miss Matilda Jenkyns.[“] ….

Even Miss Pole cried, who had said a hundred times that to betray emotion before any one was a sign of weakness and want of self-control.

Cranford, pages 158-159

I think that was what meant so much to me in reading this book. No matter what ridiculous and irrelevant thing the Cranford ladies would say or do, when it came down to it, they would stick out for each other, through thick and thin.

Some of Mary’s accounts of the Cranford shenanigans were funny, some were sad and I almost cried. Some were surprising and some were joyful! Overall, it was a charming story that I would read again and again and recommend anyone who appreciates classic literature to do so as well!

“…and I don’t want to give her time enough to get up her rancour against the Hogginses, who are just coming in. I want everybody to be friends, for it harasses Matty so much to hear these quarrels. … I intend to enter the Assembly Room to-night with Mrs. Jamieson on one side, and my lady, Mrs. Hoggins, on the other. You see if I don’t[,” said Mr. Peter.]

Somehow or another he did; and fairly got them into conversation together. Major and Mrs. Gordon helped at the good work with their perfect ignorance of any existing coolness between any of the inhabitants of Cranford.

Cranford, page 183

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