Friday, June 24, 2016

Book Brief: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell


Cranford
by Elizabeth Gaskell
originally published in installments, 1851-1853
Penuin Classics, 2005
257 pages

audio edition:
narrated by Prunella Scales
Audible Studios, 2007
6 hours and 45 minutes

Goodreads summary:
A portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid nineteenth century, Cranford relates the adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy in its depiction of such troubling events as Matty's bankruptcy, the violent death of Captain Brown or the unwitting cruelty of Peter Jenkyns. Written with acute observation, Cranford is by turns affectionate, moving and darkly satirical.

My Three Sentence Review:
Gentle, genteel, and oh so charming! I enjoyed my time in this small English village. Reading Mrs. Gaskell is always a pleasure.

A note on the audio production:
I chose a read/listen combination after my twitter conversation with Thomas. He praised Prunella Scales narration, but I wasn't familiar with her work. I now agree she is wonderful, but Juliet Stevenson remains my favorite female voice for British classics.

Now I must watch BBC series!


36 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this...and now I'd love to listen. (and re-watch).

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    1. Audrey - I thought it was available to stream on Netflix, but that's no longer the case. Almost positive I can get it from the library though.

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  2. This has been on my TBR for so long...

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    1. Amy - This has been on my TBR shelf for a decade, at least. Possibly one of its longest residents ;-)

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  3. Replies
    1. Patty - Sometimes there's nothing like a little old-fashioned English charm :)

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  4. This sounds lovely! I have no idea why I have yet to read Gaskell but this sounds like a good place to start.

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    1. Katherine - This is the perfect place to start with Elizabeth Gaskell. Unlike Wives and Daughters or North and South,this is very short ;-)

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  5. I am pretty sure this is the only Gaskell I have read (pretty sad that I need to check Goodreads to know if I am right about that).

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    1. Stephanie - LOL! I've also read North and South, which I loved, and a few short stories.

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  6. I always love books like you described in three sentences, no less!

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  7. I loved the television series and should read this one. Thank you!

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    1. Sunday - It's a delightful read! I'm sure the television series is just as quaint.

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  8. This is a fun read. It's the only Gaskell I've read, but it won't be the last. :)

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    1. Lark - I loved North and South, and hope to read Wives and Daughters for The Classics Club.

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  9. JoAnn,
    What a perfect photo for this post! I love it.
    And Cranford, I don't know it--I'm so glad you've written about it, because I'm very interested. I have Wives and Daughters on my Classics Club list, but I need to put this on my future reads list, for sure.
    Judith

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    1. Judith - Wives and Daughters is on my Classics Club list, too, and now I'm even more excited to read it. The photo was taken on a cold, rainy Saturday morning... Cranford was perfect cozy reading that day!

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  10. JoAnn, I am glad you enjoyed this, it is one of my favourite books, and one of the few classics I have read several times. I love it's comedy with a bit of bite. As you say, a charming domestic book, but which covers hard times as well as good.

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    1. Michelle Ann - I can certainly see returning to Cranford one day! One of the things I appreciated is that it's not all cozy and cheery... as you say, there are hard times mixed in, giving it wonderful balance.

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  11. I enjoyed the PBS series. I have just spent a week visting English villages of Ulverston, Dalton and Grange. Beautiful countryside and a much simpler way of life. My husband has applied for a two year consultant assignment.

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    1. Lorwatkins - What an adventure that would be! Sounds like you're hoping it works out... I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. I'll be watching the PBS series soon.

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  12. Here is another book I will add in my little notebook of books to acquire or read. This sounds interesting to me, wish I had more time to get to these books. Also, I didn't know it was a TV show so maybe the library could get me the DVD.

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    1. Tina - I tend to like Victorian novels, and this one is especially nice because it's so short. Hoping my library can get the DVD, too!

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  13. I have not read Elizabeth Gaskell but I would like to. Over the last several years I have been reading a lot of similar Nineteenth Century novelists and getting a lot out of them.

    I agree that Juliet Stevenson is a great audiobook narrator.

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    1. Brian Joseph - North and South is my favorite Gaskell so far, but Cranford (being so short) seems like a good place to start. I've listened to Julie Stevenson narrate both classics and contemporary fiction... she is excellent!

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  14. I read this book earlier this year and 'Gentle, genteel, and oh so charming!' sums it up beautifully. I have also just watched the BBC's wonderful TV series of it - I highly recommend it. Now I am looking forward to reading the other 2 stories set in Cranford :-)

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    1. Jessicabookworm - Two more stories set in Cranford?? I'm off to investigate immediately!

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  15. I loved Cranford as well. Yes, you must watch the BBC series. It has a stellar cast: Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, and Eileen Atkins.

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    1. Patience_Crabstick - It would have to be good with a cast like that! I look forward to watching it.

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  16. I didn't realize this one was so short. Perhaps it's time to introduce myself to Gaskell.

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    1. Lisa - Yes, definitely! Cranford is short and sweet.

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  17. Cranford is very short, and sadly, the first TV series was so popular that they tarted it up into several series of buffoonery. The book is available on Kindle for free, and I reread it often when I am very sad. It cheers me up!

    And Prunella Scales - you might be familiar with her in her two most famous TV roles. She played Sybil Fawlty, the wife on Fawlty Towers, and Miss Elizabeth Mapp in the 1980s version of Mapp and Lucia with Geraldine McEuan and Nigel Hawthorne, which was absolutely perfect IMHO. Sadly, she is suffering from dementia, so she can't work any more.

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    1. GSGreatEscaper - I have yet to watch the Cranford, but it sounds like I'd like it more if I stop after the first season. This is certainly a book I could see turning to when cheering up is required! Very sad to hear about Prunella Scales...

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