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Elizabeth Gaskell – Cranford

May 21, 2016

Gaskell, Elizabeth - Cranford - 4003. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (1851)

Read By: Prunella Scales
Length: 6h 45min (304 pages)

Genre: Classic

Started: 09 January 2016
Finished: 17 January 2016

Where did it come from? Audible.
Why do I have it? One of my book club’s picks.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 09 January 2016.

We don’t need men to
live our lives of extremely
genteel poverty.

Summary: Cranford is a small provincial town that is almost entirely populated by women. (At least among the middle/upper classes.) Some of these women are single, some are widowed, and all of them do their best to maintain a lifestyle appropriate to their station, even though money is tight for almost all of them. But discussing these things is simply not done, of course, if one is to maintain a polite and proper society.

Review: My Jane Austen book club is branching out a little bit, so we picked Cranford as a period-appropriate detour. And, while this book was largely inoffensive, and had some truly memorably funny bits, on the whole, it didn’t really stand out for me. I think my largest issue was with the lack of a narrative through-line – there were lots of episodic little vignettes, but no real plot. (I recently learned that this was originally published serially as various interconnected sketches of life in this small town, which makes perfect sense in retrospect.) If I had to point to “the main plot”, it didn’t show up until about two-thirds of the way through the book, and was basically “Miss Mattie loses her money but because she’s been nice to everyone they’re all willing to give her stuff for free and then her brother comes back from India rich and they all live happily ever after.” Sort of weak sauce, there, plot-wise. I also had a difficult time telling some of the secondary characters apart, and I’m still not sure that I know who the narrator was and why she was important or how she fit into the neighborhood. So, while it wasn’t exactly a chore to listen to, it wasn’t something that made me want to keep coming back, either. I did watch the mini-series (years ago, now) and liked it well enough; I may have to revisit that to see if it helps at all. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of British literature and British humor of this time period will likely enjoy it, but I found it a little underweight for a supposed classic.

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First Line: In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 22, 2016 11:42 pm

    I didn’t realize this was soshort. Only six hours!

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