Thursday, September 24

Book Review: Cranford

Title:  Cranford

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Pages: 160

Summary: Elizabeth Gaskell’s comic portrait of early Victorian life in a country town describes with poignant with the uneventful lives if its lady-like inhabitants, offering an ironic commentary on the separate spheres and diverse experiences of men and women. As the external world necessarily impinges even on Cranford, the unlikely juxtapositions of old and new brought about by the pace of change are also explored: the effects of Victorian commerce and imperial expansion co-exist with the survival of the customs and habits of thought from much earlier times.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed my first experience with Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, I went into it not sure what to expect from the author, but I have to say I was surprised. For one, it was a lot different then some of the other Victorian Literature/19th Century writing by women, because it focused less on the love affairs women have, need etc, and more on the life and times of spinsters in Cranford. At times, it was a bit humour, as the reader follows the spinsters and observe what they do. I’m not sure if Gaskell intended it to be a bit of a satire on how some women were during this time, or if it was meant more of something serious, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Even when the story itself is a little dry at times, her writing style makes up for it. If there is one thing I can appreciate in just about Victorian era writing, it’s the lovely, elegant writing style of the authors and/or voice of their narrators. It really makes a difference to a story, that at times moves slowly, when you have such beautiful writing to pull you through. I also like when the author writers as if they were sitting there talking to you in an engaging retelling of the story face to face, which is what it felt like at times in this book.

One criticism I have is that although I enjoyed reading about the characters, following throughout the story, not one stuck out and struck me. None of the characters were memorable. I found that the characters are very easy to forget about once you put the book down, so I wish there was something more there to them. The only character that stuck out for me was one who was on two or three pages, and that’s because they shared their last name with me (Mr. Dobson). Other then the lack of memorable characters or even characters that you wouldn’t forget about the second the page is turned; it was a nice read, with a beautiful writing style. (And, 9 months after joining the 18th-19th Century Women Writers Challenge, I finally read one book in that challenge!)

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend this book to read. It’s a fairly light read, which can be humours at times, and it isn’t as dry as some similar novels out there (Wuthering Heights for example). It also isn’t one that’s heavy on the romance side of Victorian life, and focuses more on day to day life instead. What I want to know was whether or not Gaskell intended it to be a bit of a satirical outlook on society, social class etc. Anyone know?

What to read next: I personally want to investigate more of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels, North and South is one of them (I may save it for next year though). So that would be a place to start. Charlotte Bronte would also be a good choice.

Challenges: 18th/19th Century Women Writers Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
999 Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Fall into Reading Challenge


  1. I've yet to read any Gaskell, but from the novels I've heard about, she's very into social criticism. Jason's told me I should start with this book.

  2. I've never heard of Gaskell. I'm curious about the cover, though. If it's about spinsters, why is there a mother and child on the cover?

  3. That's a good question softdrink. And unless I'm having a complete memory blank, there aren't reubally any children (save those seen in a shop purchasing candy) in the book.

    I have no idea why, and now that you pointed that out to me, I'm also curious.

  4. I am in the middle of this book. Not really feeling engaged in it because it doesn't have a plot -- and you're right no character stands out. But I am enjoying the social criticism aspect. Thanks for this review!

  5. Definitely read North and South!

  6. This actually looks quite good. The cover is boring, and it's weird that it seems to have nothing to do with it, but I might have to check it out.

  7. The only book I have ever read by Gaskell is Wives and Daughters. I liked it, but I didn't think it was great. I think I might have had much more fun with this book instead, and I am going to see if I can seek out a copy and give it a try. Awesome review, I'm glad you brought Gaskell to the forefront of my mind again. I had been meaning to give her another try.

  8. I LOVE books on Victorian life, and I have not read Gaskell. The story sounds appealing to me. Thanks

  9. This review had me looking for a book I won back in High school, all I could remember was that it was written by Elizabeth Gaskell. When it was given to me I had never heard of the author and the cover doesn't really look appealing so I dismissed the book and never read it. I just pulled it out from my bookshelf and it's called Mary Barton. Perhaps I should give it a try.

    And I totally agree with you about books written in the Victorian era...they are just so beautifully written and it makes me feel I actually know the characters. Even when the story is slow it doesn't bore me.