Cranford Read-Along: Part 1

Monday, June 14, 2010

This first post covers the first half of Cranford, chapters 1-8, for the read-along hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.

The book consists of a sweet meandering through quiet country life in England in the 1840s. There's no major plot or drama, just 16 chapters of little anecdotes about the town of Cranford and its residents. Mary Smith, a young woman who frequently visits the town, is our narrator. The old women in the town, many of whom are spinsters or widows, rule the roost. Matty and Deborah Jenkyns are the elderly sisters at the heart of the book and their brother Peter plays a role in the story as well. I liked the chapter that deals with his deciding to leave Cranford forever.

I'm not enthralled by the book, but I really don't think I'm supposed to be. It reminds me quite a bit of Jane Austen's work, but without the romantic entanglements. It also has a similar feel to L.M. Montgomery's books (especially Anne of Windy Poplars). It's all about the social standing, fashion, etiquette, etc. I felt myself wishing there was a main character to become attached to. Austen had Elizabeth, Montgomery had Anne Shirley, but Cranford has only Mary and she has taken herself out of the action for the most part. It's about what she sees and what the other women do, not anything about herself.

I've still enjoyed it though. It's sweet and there's definitely a sarcastic humor, which I love. Here's a little snippet from chapter 8.

"The stars are so beautiful." (Miss Matty)

"Are you a fan of astronomy?" (Lady Glenmire)

"Not very," Miss Matty replied, rather confused at the moment to remember which was astronomy, and which was astrology - but the answer was true under either circumstance... she never could believe that the earth was moving constantly, and that she would not believe it if she could, it made her feel so tired and dizzy whenever she thought about it.

What did everyone else think?

My second and final post on the book will be done on Wednesday, June 30.


Allie said...

The whole fiasco around the visit of Lady Glenmire had me in stitches.

I had a hard time connecting at first, mainly because I wasn't sure who I was supposed to be focusing on. I suppose now that I am halfway I just feel more comfortable with how Gaskell is writing the story, but it is definitely different than the other experience I had reading her work in North and South.

Anonymous said...

I'm not really thinking about it too much, Im just enjoying the ride really but I did expect there to not be much plot.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Each chapter is definitely enjoyable. I think I was just expecting an overarching story, but I think the women themselves and their interaction is the story. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

Susan E. Harris-Gamard said...

The rest of the book is definitely better. Hang in there!

Cat said...

Once I realised I wasn't going to be reading a novel I began to look forward to each chapter. I love the humour.

Becky Hill said...

I really love Elizabeth Gaskell. Wives and Daughters is very good. Try that one too!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Becky- Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to try both that and North and South. I keep hearing it's great too.