Monday, January 25, 2016

My review of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford is a quaintly told tale of small-town Cranford, England, in the mid-1800s. The narrator is Mary Smith, who visits the town frequently enough to be considered part of polite society there and to care deeply about certain main characters, specifically those in the Jenkyns family. The consistent kindness of Matilda Jenkyns, affectionately known in Cranford as Miss Matty, is the thread woven through the tapestry of village vignettes.

The Cranford stories are old-fashioned human interest happenings laced with lots of female gossip. Just when I began to think the indignant gossip was too tiresome to continue reading, however, a new intrigue or emotional development enticed me into the next chapter. Also, I felt affection toward Miss Matty and wanted to follow her story. I found these Cranford women’s loyal friendships inspiring. And the narrator employs a fair amount of subtle humor, which I enjoyed. This is a cozy, simple, quiet read.

One scene that particularly touched me was Miss Matty’s reminiscence of her and her sister’s planning out their lives when they were young. Their father once had them write in the morning what they expected to happen that day and then in the evening, what had actually occurred. This prompted a bittersweet remembrance of the contrast between their cherished dreams and their already half-lived lives.

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