Monday, 19 April 2010

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

After having watched, and loved, the BBC series with Judy Dench, I really wanted to read this book. Confident that it would at least be a good read, I bought the audio book and put it on my Classics Challenge List. It was indeed a pleasant read, although a bit different from the series. I have since learned, however, that the series was based on three novella, Cranford, My Lady Ludlow and Mrs. Harrison’s confessions, so there’s another two for me to add to my list.

Mary Smith, a friend of the family, frequently goes to stay with the Jenkyns’ sisters and on those occasions, writes her observations about the town of Cranford and its inhabitants in her journal. She describes Cranford as a town ruled by women which never changes as to its habits and ways. The ladies of the town like to keep change to a minimum, and while their lives aren’t exciting, they live a pleasant life and entertain themselves with the antics of their neighbours. In this way, they seem to be a lot more content with life than many others. Having said that, it’s worth mentioning that these women belong to the upper-middle class and although they aren’t wealthy enough to disregard money, they don’t have to worry about their existence and thus have little impetus to change. They can afford to live slow, pleasant lives. That’s not to say that they don’t have troubles, because they do, but even then, the ladies fight back in a very unexpected and touching manner.

At first it bothered me that there was no real central theme or story line to the novel, the writing style is pleasant and it flows. The town also provides enough in the way of mishaps and secrets revealed to hold the interest. Additionally, the characters are well structured and realistic both in personal attributes and actions. It makes for quite a good mix and a nice read. These are people you’d want to meet in real life; people who make the world a better place to live in, despite their pre-occupation with status. Gaskell portrays their emotions well, without ever actually telling us how they feel, by intimating their feeling through small motions and reactions, like the turn of a head, the aversion of a gaze, the change tactful change of topics of conversation. Their actions do speak louder than their words.

Although the book is totally different to the series I love, it’s still very good. 5 out of 5 for a pleasant read.

Classics Challenge 2010
Typically British Challenge

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