Gaskell is one of those people I’ve wanted to read, but had been put off because I’ve been told her work can be very difficult to get through. Most of her books are about the hardness of life in the 1800’s and can be quite dense reading. However, when the BBC made this into a TV drama I thought I would give it a try. I didn’t get a chance to watch the programs, but I feel that I would have missed out a lot of I hadn’t read this book. It is FANTASTIC.....how can it not be when it starts out:
In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women. 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 neighbouring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford. (1)
Now, as a woman, how can you not find that intriguing! Especially when you have been told how little control women had back in that time? It is written from the standpoint of a young lady who visits. I think this was an interesting thing to do, get bored...go stay with someone for a few months. Back when you couldn’t easily go visit for a day, this seems to be the way to do things. She stays with several ladies during the time frame of the book and shows us life in several different living conditions. I enjoyed it, and would suggest it to anyone needing a light and enjoyable read.
I have to admit I enjoyed the book also because it was one of those tiny editions that you could easily see a young lady of the time period putting in her receptacle to pull out and read as she walked in the garden. It is about 3” by 4”, with tiny writing. I love these editions especially that have a large margin at the bottom. I can see someone even more reading these as they walked or sat in a garden, with plenty of room of their fingers to hold the pages open. So as you can see...I am a bibliophile of the extreme. Given an opportunity to read a book in a newer edition or an old one...I always choose the old. I think that it adds to the feel of the time period of the book.
Gaskell, Elizabeth. Cranford. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.