Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book


Rate this book
A vivid and affectionate portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid-19th century, Cranford describes a community dominated by its independent and refined women, relating 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 satirical vignettes, Gaskell sympathetically portrays changing small town customs and values in mid-Victorian England, in a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy: with such troubling events as Matty's bankruptcy, the death of Captain Brown and the unwitting cruelty of Peter Jenkyns.

Gaskell was an accomplished writer who had many of her stories published in Charles Dickens' magazine Household Words. She was also friends with Charlotte Brontë and after her death, her father, Patrick Brontë, chose Gaskell to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë.

Narrator Biography

Prunella Scales is a classically trained stage actress but is best known for her role as Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers (1975-1979) and for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in A Question of Attribution (1991), for which she was nominated for a BAFTA.

Her film appearances have included Stiff Upper Lips (1997), Howards End (1992) and Wolf (1994). She was awarded the CBE for her services to drama in 1992 and the Patricia Rothermere Award for her contributions to British Theatre in 2001. More recent appearances have included the mini-series The Shell Seekers (2006), a production of Carrie's War at the Apollo Theatre (2009) and Horrid Henry: The Movie (2013).

Julian Barnes’ The Lemon Table and Anne Fine’s Charm School are among the many audiobooks Prunella Scales has narrated.


First published January 1, 1853

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Elizabeth Gaskell

916 books3,298 followers
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs. Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature.

Елізабет Гаскелл (Ukrainian)

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
12,464 (29%)
4 stars
15,618 (36%)
3 stars
10,988 (25%)
2 stars
2,764 (6%)
1 star
916 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,183 reviews
October 16, 2022
The fictitious town of “Cranford” is in possession of amazons, dominated by the genteel women group comprising of widows and elderly spinsters. The novel is recited by Mary Smiths (which we eventually get to know as the novel progresses).

Written as a collection of inter-woven short stories, Cranford is not based on a major-plot but I felt it to be a Victorian-era soap opera belonging to the aristocratic genteel class!!

This fictional city has an infallible religion of - abiding to the social-hierarchy and contempt for men. But the beauty of the novel is, though initially they speak of indifference towards men but nowhere there is a stern condemnation for men portrayed, rather in subtle gentle ways help towards their family is rendered and their wisdom/instruction is followed.

All the episodes are cited in a satirical and hysterical tenor. Even the poignant episodes ensue into a happy ending.

The novel brims with emotions and lessons of friendship and kindness. Even foes become friends and woes turn into lessons of happiness.

Not a plot-driven, but a “society and mannerism driven” book, for me it was a light-hearted read which made me nostalgic of the days when my late mother would conduct “Kitty parties”, where elite women would come and discuss about their woes and achievements, establish protocols and rules, and all this conducted over card parties and drinks, and so much more!

There is definitely a subtle dichotomy between men and women established in the village of Cranford. They put up cogent arguments to prove their correctness for etiquettes.

The women of Cranford are invariably fain to make sacrifices for each other lovingly.

The Cranford women are unmitigatedly gentile, aristocratic, scrupulous, honest, loving, kind. Irrespective of them being referred to as amazons, nowhere have they belittled or disparaged men, rather they have showered their love and affection!

In short, women at Cranford have a predilection for love and kindness in their blood. A careworn expression on anyone's face is duly rectified by acts of kindness.

Kind and cute contrivances are devised for helping each other and are executed with avidity.

For my reference mentioning a gist of the chapters as they roll around-

Chapters 1-2

We are introduced to the fictitious town of Cranford led by the unchallenged and infallible leader of the ladies’ gang, Miss Deborah Jenkyns.
Mary Smith, the reciter of the novel (eventually introduced later as the novel progresses) lives with her father in the industrial down of Drumble.

'it was considered 'vulgar' to give anything expensive, in the way of eatable or drinkable, at the evening entertainments"

Captain Brown arrives with his two daughters, his masculine presence as expected is distasteful to all the Cranford ladies. Miss Jenkyns ends up having a a literary dispute with him. There is an added poignancy in this chapter amidst the hilarious description of the ladies (not including spoilers).

The poignancy is handled with sheer kindness by the ladies.

Chapters 3-4

Miss Jenkyns’s younger sister, Miss Matty Jenkyns, a complete contrast to her sister, takes over the proceedings of Cranford from her sister.

She is shown to harbor feeling for one of his ex-suitors (who proposed her 30-40 years ago)

Here a beautiful picturization of human emotions and love is depicted, which prolongs even after the love is gone, with an added concealment of grief.

"I could perceive she was in a tremor at the thought of seeing the place which might have been her home, and round which it is probable that many of her innocent girlish imaginations had clustered"

Chapters 5-6

Ferreting the old letters, Mary discovers Matty and Deborah have a long-lost brother Peter. Here we get to know about the story of Peter and the presumption of him being dead by Miss Matty

"but there was another letter of exhortation from the grandfather, more stringent and admonitory than ever, now that there was a boy to be guarded from the snares of the world"

Chapters 7-8

Here we are introduced to Miss Betty, who invites Miss Matty and there Cranford ladies for a tea party. Unaware of the etiquettes of Cranford, she ends up breaking many. We are also introduced to the arrival of the snobbish Lady Glenmire, who eventually turns out to be warm and kind-spirited

"we were rather glad to hear this, for she had made a pleasant impression upon us, and it was also very comfortable to find, from things that dropped out in the conversation, that, in addition to many other genteel qualities, she was from removed from the 'vulgarity of wealth' "

Chapter 9

A Conjurer puts up an act in Cranford and ladies are bewitched and left awe-stricken

Chapter 10-11

Robberies take place in Cranford, and the prime suspect is the conjurer. Upon knowing the hardship of the conjurer and releasing him of the guilt-charges, the Cranford ladies end up helping him.

Chapter 12

Cranford ladies are shaken upon the news of marriage of Lady Glenmire, but finally a precedent is laid upon how to react to the unpleasant news

"it is never genteel to be over-curious on these occasions"

Chapters 13-16

Financial troubles abound Miss Matty, and the friendliness and kindness of the Cranford ladies including brother Peter help her to be restored.

Finally, peace is restored to Cranford

Closing lines-

"Ever since that day there has been the old friendly sociability in Cranford society; which I am thankful for, because of my dear Miss Matty’s love of peace and kindliness. We all love Miss Matty, and I somehow think we are all of us better when she is near us."

A definite 5-star for this not-a-gargantuan-novel and impressive feat of writing by Elizabeth Gaskell from me!!😊

Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,494 reviews2,374 followers
May 12, 2018
Written as a series of vignettes about living in a small English town, Elizabeth Gaskell isn't bothered about any plot with Cranford (which was originally edited by Charles Dickens), she simply focuses on a small group of ladies and their adventures (or lack of), as they meander, yawn, and gossip their way through mid 19th century life. While it may not be the sort of book to keep you up half the night with clammy hands, it's pleasant and good old-fashioned nature is where it's power lies, which will have you reaching for the tea pot, rather than that bottle of wine.

Harkening back to a relaxed and simpler time, before the mad stampede of boxing day sales, life crawled along like a snail on sedatives for the locals, they concern themselves less with who's sleeping with whom, or, does my bum look big in this? and just amuse themselves with their knitting of nice fluffy cardigans, charitable acts that were the norm, invitations for sunday tea and cake, polite card games that didn't result in drunkenness or violence, and trying on the lastest bonnet. A life that is unfathomable to the rapidly-shrinking world of today, which makes this all the more special for its portrayal of this historical era, a world far away from all the buzzing and ticking of modern day appliances.

These are less like neatly organised narratives, and read more like the stories one would casually include in a letter to a friend. It isn't really a novel in the true sense, although characters like Miss matty or Miss Pole could quite easily have been plucked out of a number of other older British novels. Cranford, based on Knutsford, Cheshire, is a place where the gardens are full of flowers rather than weeds, and you can almost smell the scent of honey blossom blowing in the breeze.
Put it this way, I would sooner be here than south central Los Angeles.

Parts of Cranford are wonderfully funny, but it is also bathed in a poignant dream-like mood, that encapsulates the spirit of a by-gone era. From the landed gentry, professional men and the genteel widows, to the respectable poor and those on the brink of crime, the local hierarchy are vividly bought to life under the watchful eye of Gaskell, who writes with delight.

There are a couple of main themes to touch on. Money worries, and the limitations and lack of options for women, especially unmarried women, at the time. Regardless of differing opinion, the fact of the matter is that single women over a certain age without family money or male companionship, found themselves in the awful situation of having very few socially acceptable options to provide an income upon which they could live. The ladies of Cranford are a resilient bunch, full of warmth and dignity, and have each other if the chips are down.
The way that the women all banded together even though they were a mix of classes, purely because they all wanted to live the same way was so precious.

I admit, I enjoyed this more than what I expected, and it was nice to return to a time when people didn't rely on gizmos and gadgets to function properly.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,272 reviews548 followers
January 4, 2015
"the humor is so sly. at times it's difficult to believe that this was written over 150 years ago. I guess that gentle social humor has always been with us." --- this was one of my status updates while reading Cranford, my first experience reading Elizabeth Gaskell.

As I finished reading, I felt the same way: pleased with the experience, surprised at the wit and wisdom written so well so many years ago. But then I ask myself...Why am I surprised? There are always intelligent women and always intelligent women who find ways to make themselves heard even in less than enthusiastic societies. I need to keep looking for them!

I had planned to include some of the truly wonderful quotes from various characters but instead I challenge you to read this book and discover them for yourself. I venture to say you will be glad you did.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews489 followers
October 20, 2022
Cranford is quite an unusual book. Having read North and South and Wives and Daughters , this novel (if you can call it one) took me by surprise. To begin with, it has no proper plot or structure. It is rather a written collection of lives, customs, and social values of people of a fictitious town called "Cranford" which is modelled after the small Cheshire town of Knutsford.

At first, I thought it is a collection of short stories. But as I read on, I found connectivity between the chapters so as to make it one continuous whole. Although there is no proper story, this collected writing was engaging enough to keep you reading on.

The story or rather the collection of writing revolves around a set of elderly ladies, who dominate the society of the small town of Cranford, setting its customs and values. Anyone who goes against these accepted conventions was looked down upon as "vulgar". In a changing society, these ladies were doing their very best to hold on to outdated customs and conventions.

Being written as a narrative by a young visitor and friend to Cranford ladies, who is not a part of that stringent society, makes the account unbiased and believable. I do appreciate Ms. Gaskell's prudence in bringing a narrator who is only an observer.

With all that being said, what really arrested my attention and kept my interest in this unusual collection was the satirical writing of Ms. Gaskell, of fading Victorian customs and values to which the elder generation has so clung to, as a religion. The changes that were coming about with industrialization were most unwelcoming to this slowly dying generation. And their views were proclaimed with witty and satirical dialogues which were so entertaining to the reader. At the same time, they invoke the reader's sympathy for the poor old ladies.

Overall, although this was so unexpected an outcome from one of my best-loved authors, it was nevertheless a pleasant read.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews34 followers
September 2, 2020
Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell

Cranford is one of the better-known novels of the 19th-century English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. There is no real plot, but rather a collection of satirical sketches, which sympathetically portray changing small town customs and values in mid Victorian England.

Harkening back to memories of her childhood in the small Cheshire town of Knutsford, Cranford is Elizabeth Gaskell's affectionate portrait of people and customs that were already becoming anachronisms.
Chapter 1 – Our Society.
Chapter 2 – The Captain.
Chapter 3 – A Love Affair of Long Ago.
Chapter 4 – A Visit to an Old Bachelor.
Chapter 5 – Old Letters.
Chapter 6 – Poor Peter.
Chapter 7 – Visiting.
Chapter 8 – Your Ladyship.
Chapter 9 – Signor Brunoni.
Chapter 10 – The Panic.
Chapter 11 – Samuel Brown.
Chapter 12 – Engaged to be Married.
Chapter 13 – Stopped Payment.
Chapter 14 – Friends in Need.
Chapter 15 – A Happy Return.
Chapter 16 – Peace to Cranford.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهارم ماه مارس سال 2007 میلادی

عنوان: کرانفورد؛ اثر: الیزابت گاسکل؛ مترجم: سیما حکمت؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، واژه، 1385، در 88ص، مصور، شابک 9645607221؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 19م

داستانی در چند فصل و دو زبانه (فارسی انگلیسی) است (کتاب اصلی شانزده فصل دارد)، عنوان فصلها: خانم‌های کرانفورد، یک داستان عاشقانه‌ ی قدیمی، پیتر بینوا، برونتی بزرگ، داستان سام براون، ورشکستگی، و بازگشتی مبارک به خانه

داستان درباره‌ ی شهر کوچکی ست به نام «کرانفورد» که از بسیاری جهات، شبیه یک جای معمولی است، اما از یک نظر هم بسیار ویژه است؛ در این شهر، بجای مردان زنان هستند، که قوانین را تعیین می‌کنند؛ هم‌چنین تعداد مردان در شهر، بسیار کم است؛ نیز بیش‌تر خانم‌ها یا مجرد هستند، یا همسرانشان را از دست داده‌ اند؛ از جمله‌ ی این افراد، دوشیزه «دبوراه» و دوشیزه «ماتیلدا» ـ دختران کشیش «جنکینز» هستند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 11/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Kerri.
989 reviews368 followers
August 4, 2019
I ended up loving this book so much! You follow a group of (older) women, mainly unmarried or widowed, in the small 'rural backwater of Cranford', and it's alot of talking, gossiping and dipping in and out of lives. It was a very funny book, my favourite line being, "My father was a man, and I know the sex pretty well." (It is probably much funnier in context, but I've had it popping into my head constantly over the day). Amongst all their obsession with each others lives are some very poignant revelations - how it would be nice to have a little more money, how a spinster might have married but didn't, the grieving for a child that never had the opportunity to exist (this in particular was heartbreaking), and the way that, for all their gossiping and occasional pettiness, the women rally around each other without fail.

I would point out, it's most likely not for everyone - not a lot actually happens. They talk, visit each other, time passes. There are events, moments of drama, but it's a gentle story which I know bores some people. For me however, it felt like an almost perfect read.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,300 reviews450 followers
January 18, 2023
What a joy this was! My first 5 star book of 2023, after a few lackluster novels before it. Not for lovers of a strong plot with suspense or romance or all the modern bells and whistles. No, the ladies of Cranford are gentle folk, spinsters and widows of reduced circumstances, whose lives are made up of visiting and gossiping and conjecture, all in good taste, of course. There are teas and card parties for entertainment, and the occasional big happenings to discuss. Robberies in the neighborhood! A traveling conjuror who may not be "quite the thing", but nevertheless must not be missed! Visits from distant relatives! Peaceful Cranford meets all these challenges in stride, and continues it's way of life.

I enjoyed this book and it's story so much I may make it a yearly tradition to start my reading off in style each January. It was also my first book by Elizabeth Gaskell, so I'm off to find more.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,062 reviews495 followers
July 30, 2022
This was an unexpected and unmitigated pleasure to read. I was chuckling out loud several times when reading...would be caught unawares. This woman had such a sense of humor! But there were parts that were a bit sad too...I do not want to give the wrong impression.

This was a great read! 5 enthusiastic stars! 🙂 🙃 🙂 🙃 🙂 🙃

The narrator, Mary Smith, related the goings-on of ladies in the village of Cranford (circa 1850s I think).

Here are a couple of passages that I found humorous, and this sort of writing is replete throughout the rather small book:
• Mr. Hoggins was the Cranford doctor now; we disliked the name, and considered it coarse; but, as Miss Jenkyns said, if he changed it to Piggins it would not be much better.
• However, Mrs. Jamieson was kindly indulgent to Miss Barker’s want of knowledge of the customs of high like; and, to spare her feelings, ate three large pieces of seed-cake, with a placid, ruminating expression of countenance, not unlike a cow’s.
• The ladies are invited to a bachelor’s house for dinner and one of the dishes is green peas, but they are only given a fork with two prongs.... “Miss Pole sighed over her delicate young peas as she left them on one side of her plate untasted; for they would drop between the prongs. I looked at my host: the peas were going wholesale into his capacious mouth, shoveled up by his large round-ended knife. I saw, I imitated, I survived! My friends, in spite of my precedent, could not muster up courage enough to do an ungenteel thing...
• One of the ladies gives her dog, Carlo, tea with cream... “She accordingly mixed a saucer-full for him, and put it down for him to lap; and then she told us how intelligent and sensible the dear little fellow was; he knew cream quite well, and constantly refused tea with only milk in it; so the milk was left for us; but we silently thought we were quite as intelligent as Carlo, and felt as if insult were added to injury, when we were called upon to admire the gratitude evinced by his wagging his tail for the cream, which should have been ours.”

Hey, Dickens liked the installments Gaskell sent him, so it has to be good!!!!

�� https://www.theguardian.com/books/200...

• From my reading of reviews and such, I learned that the BBC aired a series on Cranford in 2007 (in US, the series was aired on Masterpiece Theater on PBS)
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book563 followers
August 9, 2020
3.5 stars, rounded up.

Want to take a trip to a small English town in the mid 1800s, meet the people and see what everyday life was like for the female population? Open Cranford and travel in time. It is a sweet and simple book, comprised of what seems more like vignettes than an actual plot line. Nothing exciting happens, life just unfolds, and yet you feel attached to these women, admiring the grace with which they handle their sometimes difficult world, the way they navigate a system that pigeonholes them and limits them.

Miss Matty Jenkyns is such a sweet and gentle person. She always thinks of others before self and tries to please everyone, sometimes to her own detriment. She exhibits very little self-pity, and when she caves to even the simplest bit of a well-deserved indulgence, she succumbs to guilt and remorse immediately. Her life has been about self-sacrifice and a bit of bullying by her older sister, but she is so non-judgmental and well-loved by others, that you feel her sacrifice has not been unrewarded. Matty is not a character I will easily forget.

I do not think this is one of Gaskell’s best works. North and South has more substance; Mary Barton is much stronger. Still, Cranford is heart-warming and touching in many ways and I am glad to have read it.
Profile Image for Laysee.
519 reviews250 followers
February 1, 2021
I spent a week with the inhabitants of Cranford, a small village in Victorian North West England, a traditional community steeped in the code of gentility, and am glad to return to modern civilization.

Set in the 1840s, this novel offered interesting glimpses into the social mores of a female dominated village. The single and widowed middle class female inhabitants put great store by propriety and maintaining an appearance of refinement. There were rules that regulated social visits and returning calls. The poor among them hid their poverty and ‘concealed their smart under a smiling face.’ The narrator (whose identity was not known until almost the end) revealed that ‘... we blinded ourselves to the vulgar fact that we were, all of us, people of very moderate means.’ Rank was important and so marriage was not to be entered into lightly until one had found a partner befitting one’s social standing.

The story centered on the Jenkyns sisters (Matty and Deborah), daughters of the deceased rector, and their friendship principally with Mary Smith (a younger woman who was their house guest), and other single women (e.g., Miss Pole) and widows (e.g., Mrs. Forrester and Lady Glenmire). Nothing really happened in the story, which revolved around the preoccupations of the village ladies, failed courtship, financial threats, imagined burglaries, tragic accidents, an unexpected reunion, petty snobbery, and eternal gossips. What stood out was female friendship and the loyal support the ladies offered each other when hardship struck.

The tone of this novel was playful. The opening chapter was written in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, which I initially found quite amusing. Alas, the genteel society of Cranford was too much for me. I can only take so much ‘chaste elegance and propriety’, which became tiresome after a while.

Nonetheless, it is a pleasant story with several heartwarming anecdotes and light hearted observances of what life was like in days of yore. I learned how an orange was best eaten and enjoyed.
Profile Image for Cindy Rollins.
Author 20 books2,155 followers
January 18, 2022
Fun reread this time on audio. Now off to watch Judy Dench as Matty. The best part for me was the hilarious absurdity which paralleled conversations I have been having. My mental health was saved by the joy of the absurd!
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews605 followers
September 19, 2016
I'll admit I'm no procurer of Victorian liteary novels, but I've always wanted to dabble in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, the woman who had the honor of writing The Life of Charlotte Brontë. Cranford is said to be slightly humorous, with a unique take on the lives of women during that era. A bit humorous, partly due to the preposterousness of the attitudes surrounding small town etiquette, yes, but I wouldn't call it humorous in the general sense. And yet these characters are electrifying and their everyday stories absorbing, which made me curious about the backdrop of Gaskell's creativity, where she produced such stories, and it led me to this beautiful picture of her home:

Gaskell House, Plymouth Grove, Manchester (cc Creative Commons Patyo1994)

Cranford is a village of people who, at the risk of seeming pretentious, choose to ignore anything uncomfortable, anything that suggests lack. For example, the person who cannot afford a maid would hire someone temporarily when entertaining friends and pretend as if the maid is a permanent fixture, even though she is aware that everyone knows this is false. No one speaks of another's wants, so imagine the disdain when a newcomer, Captain Brown, arrives and cannot stop speaking simply and openly about his poverty. These small exchanges, highlighted by Gaskell's stylized prose, do add mirth to this ceremonial narrative.
If we walked to or from a party, it was because the night was so fine, or the air so refreshing, not because sedan chairs were expensive. If we wore prints,instead of summer silks, it was because we preferred a washing material; and so on till we blinded ourselves to the vulgar fact that we were, all of us, people of very moderate means.

Each chapter proceeds in a short story fashion, with a narrator who you never really get to properly meet, but one who has a grasp on the village's idiosyncrasies. The characters are mostly unmarried women who are older and more reflective, so the reader is given stories from those pivotal moments of their lives, thus one gets an idea of the cultural dynamic. The atmospheric vibe is pensive, as each new chapter is an evolution of Cranford, a tilt to the village's personality and character.

The contemporary comparative narrative that comes to mind is Olive Kitteridge, although I'll admit that no one character is really as dominant and memorable as good ole Olive. And as I write this, I'm already considering how Gaskell's other novels, like Mary Barton or Ruth for example, would compare to this for me, since I do plan on sampling at least another one of her works.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,625 followers
March 13, 2017
This is a book about the village of Cranford which mainly women inhabit; women who live according to customs and norms and who are quite fond of gossip. If you think this sounds good then this might be a book for you, but I personally got very tired of it very quickly.
Each chapter follows a new anecdote, and while some of them were quite entertaining, most of them were dull and quite shallow, in my eyes. I'm sure the ladies of those days thought them of the utmost importance, but I couldn't seem to care much about their fascination with a male visitor, their tea party intrigues or their money problems.
I loved "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell, but this one not so much, unfortunately.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
876 reviews1,106 followers
April 26, 2015
FINALLY, an Elizabeth Gaskell book that I enjoyed!

I honestly didn't think I would enjoy this book, and was almost regretting putting it on my Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon TBR. And whaddya know, I finished it!

Cranford follows a group of women living in the small fictional town of, you guessed it, Cranford. The women live in "genteel poverty" and have very old-fashioned mindsets about life and social niceties and norms. The book is told from the perspective of Mary Smith (or Elizabeth Gaskell), and focuses mainly on Miss Matty, a sweet-tempered older woman who is one of the pillars of society since the death of her older, revered sister Deborah Jenkyns.

This book was cute and sweet and quite funny, which did surprise me. Although it took a little while for me to get used to the language (haven't read a classic in a while, and I usually find Gaskell's writing a little long-winded), it ended up becoming a much easier read than I anticipated. Once you are familiar with the cast of characters and their personalities, it is really enjoyable seeing what will happen to them next.

If you're a fan of Gaskell, or even not a fan of Gaskell, I'd definitely recommend it. I'm glad I didn't give up on her writing. Who knows, maybe I'll read another of her books at some point!
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,678 followers
June 14, 2017
Delightful! I went into this totally blind, knowing only that it's a respected classic by the author of NORTH AND SOUTH. I had no idea what to expect, but I certainly wasn't expecting this!

CRANFORD is all about the village of Cranford, which is mostly inhabited by shabby genteel spinsters and widows. The whole book is a serious of humorous vignettes about life there as related by an outsider, Mary Smith, who frequently goes to stay with her elderly friend Miss Matty. Through the eyes of the narrator we see scandals like a charming widow remarrying (and to a man beneath her station, no less!), a roguish foreign conjuror turning out to be an Englishman in a turban- or is he? and a wave of petty crime that causes the good ladies to sleep with one eye open and a series of elaborate traps laid out to catch the thieves- or maybe they're murderers- or perhaps even horrid Irish beggars!

Though some real drama does occur, it is covered with a light touch and the overall impression of the book is one of gentle humor. Quite a refreshing surprise, considering that I have recently read FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD and some of Louisa May Alcott's preachier entries into the fiction world!
Profile Image for María.
167 reviews93 followers
August 13, 2018
4 de 5 estrellas ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (ma ha encantado)
Una novela muy cortita que reúne varios capítulos a modo de fascículo sobre la vida y costumbres de Cranford.
Cranford es un pueblo habitado mayoritariamente por mujeres, ellas son las que gobiernan y las que manejan los entresijos.
Es una novela muy Dulce, muy costumbrista pero cargada de crítica social, de crítica hacia la mujer de la época, hacia el decoro social y las relaciones que se basan en la posición y la clase social.
Es la primera novela que leo de la autora y no será la última ya que planeo leer toda su obra.
Si no te gusta el costumbrismo y más en una autentico clásico huye de esta novela pero si te gusta, no me pensaría para nada ponerme con ella y cuanto antes....
Profile Image for Jean-Luke.
Author 1 book395 followers
March 18, 2023
"ADDG, with the leniency of someone who has been unjust in the first place, considered that Haggard's nerves might have been overtaxed...

'I think I'll advise him to read a few chapters of Cranford every night before he retires to bed. I've been doing that myself ever since Munich. I think, you know, that Mrs Gaskell would have been glad to know that.'

The whole notion was comforting..." (Penelope Fitzgerald, Human Voices)

Comforting is exactly the right word. Gentle people, gentle manners, gentle humor. If you can smile at things like women chasing sunbeams on a new carpet with newspaper because they don't want it to fade, or a woman knitting a hairless cow some pajamas, then this book is probably for you. Oh, and let's not forget the debate about whose works are superior, those of Charles Dickens or Samuel Johnson.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
August 23, 2022
even when i read this book, five years ago, i had nothing to say about it.

so i certainly have nothing to say now.

part of a series i'm doing in which i review books i read a long time ago, except i almost never do that
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
December 9, 2019
This short tale by Elizabeth Gaskell portrays life in the middle 1800s in a rural English community modeled on Cheshire, a county in northwestern England. It focuses on the lives of women. The men in the village always disappear--either they die, or they quite simply go somewhere else. Underlying the fantasy of such a place ever existing are elements of down-to-earth reality, elements depicting the difficulties women of that era had to deal with. What was required of a woman to survive if left widowed? Spinsters, how might they get by? One’s rank and social standing had to always be considered. Keeping up appearances was the dictum of the day. Gossip was ever prevalent. The book looks at how women view / viewed not only men but also each other, now and in that bygone era of old-fashioned ways.

Irony and satire set the tone. Fantasy and the real are mixed. While the tone is light, threads of seriousness ground the tale in reality.

So, what is the main message of the story? Women, as well as men, have their foibles. Neither sex is without their faults. Life’s joys, sorrows and difficulties are easier to bear when shared with another, but women are strong and resilient and can manage on their own, if need be.

A two star rating means the book is OK. I am not saying it is bad. Yet I do not think that which it says is all that remarkable. The outcome is terribly predictable. I chuckled at the humor at the start but grew weary of it by the book’s end. If you are in the mood for a light, quick read, pick it up.

The story does not consist of separate vignettes; the chapters intertwine, and the story becomes one.

Davina Porter narrates the audiobook VERY well. Her ability to flip between male and female characters is extraordinary. The speed and pacing are just as they should be. I have given the narration four stars. Maybe Porter’s performance is worthy of five.

*Wives and Daughters 4 stars
*North and South 2 stars
*Cranford 2 stars
*Ruth TBR
*Cousin Phyllis TBR
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews512 followers
June 6, 2012

What a gorgeous book. After years of avoiding Victorian literature, in the past twelve months I've fallen in love with Gaskell's writing. This is a short work: more a series of episodes than a linear narrative. It centres on the lives of a group of women who dominate society in the small town of Cranford. They are united by being single - widows and spinsters - and by the fact that live in genteel poverty.

Cranford is at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times deeply moving. Within five minutes of starting the novel I was laughing at the gentle satire on human foibles and life in a small town. Forty minutes later, I was crying about the death of one of the characters. The pattern of alternating laughter and tears continued until the very end. At least, the tears don't last quite till the end: it's a book which thankfully ends on a happy note. Cranford is sentimental, but not cloyingly so. The humour cuts through the sentiment, while making the sad moments even more poignant.

The novel is a first person narrative in the form of a memoir. Relatively little is revealed about the narrator, although more becomes known about her as the novel progresses. The narrator is herself a lovely character, although the real star of the novel is the wonderful Miss Matty Jenkyns. I love Miss Matty and I loved spending time in Cranford. I'm particularly happy to have listened to the Naxos audiobook version, superbly narrated by Clare Wille. Now I have to watch the BBC television series and see how it measures up to the original. This is a 4-1/2 star read.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 2 books2,954 followers
August 4, 2017
I adore this one. A brilliant, fascinating book. It's not necessarily Gaskell's best written but it's written so lovingly, with such wonderful characters and such a realisation and enjoyable presentation of a small town and the community of women within it, that I can't help but love it. It's also hilarious!
(I'd also highly recommend the Penguin Classics edition - it has brilliant appendixes and notes at the back!)
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,488 followers
September 9, 2019
Is it possible to discuss Cranford without using the word "charming?" It'd be like playing literary Taboo. Like trying to talk about The Road without saying "bleak," or Catcher in the Rye without "insufferable twat."

Cranford is a charming book. If it seems a bit more episodic than plot-driven, it's because it is; it was originally commissioned by Dickens as a series of eight essays for his publication Household Works. It was enormously popular, so Gaskell ended up novelizing it. And it does have a bit more plot than it's given credit for: it has a protagonist - Miss Matty - and an arc - her several swings in fortune. (And when I heard Dame Judi Dench had played Miss Matty for the BBC, my response was, "Well, of course she did." That was as inevitable as Patrick Stewart playing Professor X, or Ken Branagh frothing his way through King Lear in 2030.)

It's also partly autobiographical; many of the most vivid scenes are from Gaskell's upbringing in the very similar town of Knutsford, and first appeared in her autobiographical essay The Last Generation. If the drop-dead hilarious story involving lace and pussies seems a bit out of place to you...it's too weird not to be true. Books that try to be funny rarely work for me; Cranford is a rare exception. I was entertained.

There's some debate over whether Cranford is a feminist book or not. You could argue that it depicts a utopian society run by women (Amazons, even!) who take care of each other; and you could point to the narrator's detailed rundown of the things Miss Matty isn't qualified to do (Ch. XIV) as a critique of the lack of education available to women, which it is. Or you could call it a loving satire of a bunch of silly old ladies in bad hats. Charlotte Bronte - one of a circle of close, supportive female friends Gaskell created, which also included Florence Nightingale - wrote that William Thackeray should take Cranford, "put himself to bed, and lie there...til he had learnt by diligent study how to be satirical without being exquisitely bitter." Both of those readings are accurate, and I think Cranford is as feminist as you want it to be, in the same way that 2 Live Crew are - or were - as nasty as they wanted to be, which in retrospect was not honestly all that nasty.

And in fact both parties - Gaskell and 2 Live Crew - talked a great deal about pussies, though in different contexts.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,750 reviews613 followers
August 19, 2016
This little novel about small-town life in 19th century England deals with a group of ladies in Cranford and their daily travails, is easy to read and filled with amusing anecdotes.

The story flies by too quickly and ends too soon, however, leaving a taste of insubstantiality and emptiness, like when you finish eating candy floss (cotton candy, for the Americans out there). Because this book doesn't really tell a story in the traditional sense, with a start, a middle and an end, and there's no traditional character arc either but it's rather just a more or less linear series of anecdotes protagonised by the same bunch of womenfolk, and so one is left wondering, "What is the point of this?"

There's likely none really. Maybe Gaskell's only purpose was to illustrate the country lifestyle of a gone-by era, which she tells in a tone tinged with heavy nostalgia and longing for a simpler life with the Industrial Revolution running full steam on its way to change Britain for good.
Profile Image for Sinem A..
450 reviews248 followers
October 25, 2016
1800'lerde İngiltere 'de Cranford adlı bir kasabada yaşayan bir grup kadının günlük yaşantılarını anlatan kitap aslında çok mizahi ve dönemine göre çok feminist ve Viktorya dönemi İngilteresine taşlamalarla dolu. O dönemden bi caanım Jane Austen bilen ve sevenlere bu Charles Dickens ile arkadaşlık kurmuş geç -hele de Türkçede epeyce geç- keşfedilmiş zeki hanımefendiyi şiddetle tavsiye ederim. Kitabın giriş cümlesi zaten olacakların habercisi " Her şeyden önce, Cranford, Amazonların elindedir..."
Profile Image for Fátima Linhares.
521 reviews120 followers
June 12, 2023
Parti para esta leitura bastante entusiasmada, pois um dos meus livros favoritos, Norte e Sul, é de Miss Gaskell. Aqui temos a vida de umas senhoras desacompanhadas da contraparte masculina, ou porque nunca casaram ou porque ficaram viúvas. Traz temas que, na altura, com certeza seriam de extrema importância, como não romper uma carpete nova, qual a forma de tratamento a dar a uma senhora viúva, mas que foi casada com alguém de alguma importância. É que, parecendo que não, de Miss para Mrs. ou de Lady para Milady havia diferenças consideráveis e isto podia dar cabo da cabeça de uma pessoa. Houve um momento em que deixei o livro de lado, pois o entusiasmo esmoreceu, e quando a ele regressei já não sabia muito bem quem era quem ou o que se tinha passado, mas, como boa teimosa, lá continuei a navegar na vida das senhoras de Cranford.
Ia lendo sem achar nada de especial,
Não será um livro que agrade a toda a gente, mas tem pequenas subtilezas que me fizeram, no fim, acabar por apreciar esta leitura.
Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 167 books37.8k followers
January 20, 2013
I picked this up due to a review by Jo Walton on Tor.com. She described it as something like a mid-19th Century English Lake Wobegone, which gives a tolerably accurate sense of the discursive tone. Charming and kindly, with only a tenuous thread of anything one might call a plot, but nonetheless absorbing. I quite liked it. It is available as a free e-edition on Amazon Kindle.

The first-person voice makes it very naturally a "told" story, untouched by the later cinematic techniques that infiltrated narratives in the century following. This also can be a subtly dense style, with a power to pack a lot into a little space. Strong sense of a time and place grown increasingly alien to us.

So nice to read something that isn't trying to out-horrific all the others in some mad race for the bottom, even though the story was not untouched by death. The characters' vices were all petty ones, but their virtues, though gentle, were not. I'd almost forgotten books like this could exist. Maybe they can't, anymore.

Ta, L.
Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,550 reviews603 followers
Shelved as 'unable-to-finish'
December 25, 2019
Enough! I'm almost to the half-way point but cannot take one more enervating moment in the stifling drawing rooms of Cranford.
Profile Image for Issicratea.
213 reviews378 followers
November 11, 2019
I started Cranford in low-expectation mode, as a piece of invalid reading, to read while I was languishing with a bad cold (the literary equivalent of the unalluring “bread-jelly” that one of the old-biddy protagonists of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1853 novel likes to inflict on her ailing neighbours). “Cosy” is a rather offputting term used in book marketing, so you can have “cosy detective novels” and—more disturbingly—"cosy crime novels” and “cosy murder mysteries.” I had always had the impression that Cranford was a species of “cosy classic,” warmer and easier and less spiky than, say, Gaskell’s magnificent North and South (1854).

In a way, I suppose that’s true, but Cranford’s peaceful village setting and spinster-rich cast-list are self-effacing wrappings for what is actually a sophisticated and intriguingly elusive work. Gaskell wrote it fairly early in her career, between Mary Barton (1848) and Ruth (1853), with their challenging social-political themes. She published it in instalments in Dickens’s Household Words magazine, and it was clearly a work that came into being progressively. The early installments could almost be one-off sketches, like the essay that sparked the book, “The Last Generation in England,” published in a US magazine in 1849 (and included in the excellent Oxford World’s Classics edition as an appendix). It was only over a period of time, 1851-53, that the episodic pieces began to coalesce into something like a novel, with some kind of narrative arc.

The sketchy, loose, minimalist structure that results from this process of composition is one of the factors that gives the book an oddly modernist character, despite its seemingly traditional subject matter. (Although, thinking of it, I’m not sure how traditional this subject matter was in the 1850s—it’s as if the low-key, comic characters of Mrs and Miss Bates in Jane Austen’s Emma had been given a starring role in their own novel.)

Another technical device contributing to the complexity of the whole is the highly mobile voice of the narrator, who is part of Cranford and yet not part of it—a young woman with the everywomanish name of Mary Smith, who is a frequent visitor to Cranford (based on Knutsford, in Cheshire, where Gaskell spent parts of her youth), but who is based in nearby Drumble, or Manchester (where Gaskell lived after her marriage). Mary acts as a mediator between the two worlds of rural Cranford and industrial Manchester, and the moral values of the genteel, cheese-paring ladies of the village, and the hard-headed businessmen of the city, represented in the novel by Mary’s off-stage father. Maybe Cranford is not so far from North and South as may at first appear.

“Mary Smith” starts as a narrator in an Austenish ironic mode, and the novel is quietly hilarious throughout in its deadpan recounting of the eccentricities of village life (some of the stranger of which, like the tale of the old dear who sews flannel undergarments for her beloved Alderney cow after it falls into a lime pit and burns off its coat, turn out to be based in sober truth, as Gaskell’s “Last Generation in England” essay makes clear). Across the book, however, “Mary Smith”’s voice gains a warmer tone, and a greater appreciation of the quiet heroism and moral dignity that coexist in some of her narrated characters. This is a warm novel, without being sentimental—not an easy trick to pull off.

The more I think about Cranford, in fact, the more I think it is some kind of quiet minor masterpiece. The family saga that emerges at the centre of the novel—the tale of the Jenkyns siblings and their parents—is quite dense, sketching an entire, tragic-comic story of everyday siblings and parents damaging one another without intending to in a wonderfully oblique and light-handed manner. The episodes concerning Cranford’s response to “outsiders,” including the comic, but disturbing, incident of mass panic about burglars and intruders triggered by the presence in the village of an Italianate “Musselman” conjurer, followed by an Irish beggar-woman, mix comedy with acute, politically-inflected social observation that is as relevant now as it was at the time. I finished the book thinking that it somehow transcends its age, precisely because its episodic model of composition somehow freed the author up. Not that her more fully structured novels are inferior (I loved the lesser known Sylvia’s Lovers, as well as North and South, and Wives and Daughters), but Cranford has a rather unexpected quality to it—a novel that resists the canonical novel form.

Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,183 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.