Cranford by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

I did not particularly enjoy Cranford.

The work felt like a series of installments, which is in fact what it was. Though not every serially published novel feels so choppy, Cranford lacks the kind of plot one tends to expect of a novel. The narrator is a character in the story, but she isn’t the protagonist and plays almost no role in the events she relates. Her name, Mary Smith, is correspondingly bland.

On a positive note, the text contains the word ‘sesquipedalian’, which I’m not sure I’ve seen anywhere else but in an intentionally esoteric children’s book, Wally the Wordworm, that I had an audio cassette of when I was a kid.

What Stood Out

The whole town of genteel old women makes a virtue of necessity:

There, economy was always “elegant,” and money-spending always “vulgar and ostentatious”; a sort of sour-grapeism which made us very peaceful and satisfied.

I can’t decide whether this bit about the string is pure silliness or whether it’s a bit of distilled realism—one of those comic insights about life that is not exaggerated at all:

String is my foible.  My pockets get full of little hanks of it, picked up and twisted together, ready for uses that never come.  I am seriously annoyed if any one cuts the string of a parcel instead of patiently and faithfully undoing it fold by fold.  How people can bring themselves to use india-rubber rings, which are a sort of deification of string, as lightly as they do, I cannot imagine.  To me an india-rubber ring is a precious treasure.  I have one which is not new—one that I picked up off the floor nearly six years ago.  I have really tried to use it, but my heart failed me, and I could not commit the extravagance.

Here’s a bit of perspicacity and honorable stubbornness on the part of a serving-woman named Martha:

“I’ll not listen to reason,” she said, now in full possession of her voice, which had been rather choked with sobbing.  “Reason always means what someone else has got to say.  Now I think what I’ve got to say is good enough reason; but reason or not, I’ll say it, and I’ll stick to it.”

When and Why I Read It

After seeing a miniseries of Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters and then reading Wives and Daughters, I thought I’d try Gaskell’s other fiction while traveling with my Kindle.

Genre: fiction (classic literature)
Date started / date finished:  21-Jul-16 to 30-Jul-16
Length: 178 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 394
Originally published in: 1951
Amazon link: Cranford

Related Media

  • Cranford miniseries
  • Wives and Daughters miniseries
  • North and South miniseries
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • Mary Barton by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • Ruth by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • Sylvia’s Lovers by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell