Skip to main content

Review: Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell


Pages: 177

Original date of publication: 1853

My edition: 2009 (Barnes and Noble)

Why I decided to read: I watched the BBC miniseries of Cranford last winter and loved it

How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, February 2010

Last winter, I rented Cranford, the BBC miniseries (starring Judi Dench), from Netflix—and that got me interested in the book on which that’s based. The book is a series of vignettes about the ladies of the town of Cranford, many of whom are elderly spinsters like Miss Matty Jenkyns and her sister Deborah, or Miss Pole (much as I tried not to, I kept seeing Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton in the roles of Miss Matty and Miss Pole).

This short story differs significantly from the miniseries; the miniseries focuses a lot on the encroachment of the railways on the town of Cranford, and there’s a romantic subplot going on there. The book is much more centered on the middle-aged and elderly ladies of the town, as seen through a semi-outsider, Miss Mary Smith, the daughter of a family friend of the Jenkynses.

As another reviewer said on Librarything, reading about the ladies of Cranford is a lot like reading about the Golden Girls. This is a very lighthearted, funny book in many places, but still very touching. The ladies are very provincial, focused on the mundane details of their lives—but very loyal to one another, as seen when Matty looses her money and her friends conspire to help her out. It took a few pages for me to get into the story, but once I did, I was fully engaged in the lives of the characters in this book.

Comments

I have always wanted to watch the mini-series, but missed it on PBS this last year. I know, I should just rent it. I have the book on my Kindle, but it sits there molding right now. Thanks for explaining the differences between the tv version and the paper version....very much appreciated by me!
Have you seen Return to Cranford (movie)? If not, I highly recommend. All the same characters from the first movie. And if you've never seen the movie Wives and Daughters (also written by Elizabeth Gaskell), I loved it!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…