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25 May 2011

Book Review Cranford

CranfordCranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because I watched the BBC miniseries entitled "Cranford" recently and thought the production quite entertaining.

The book was lovely (though fans of the miniseries should know that the script writers took material from several other of Gaskell's books to round out the story of the miniseries;  the book, Cranford is much more limited in scope and plot).  I cannot decide whether I would have liked it without having seen the very well-acted and charming series, with Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton and other lights of the British screen.

But, then again, perhaps I would have liked it if I had come to it without the BBC.  The book itself is charming.  The world Gaskell describes is rather foreign but one finds foothold quite quickly.  These are ultimately human characters, even if their spinster world of elegant economy and living on a yearly stipend is rather an unknown quality these days.

There is insight, too.  Gaskell writes, "I never knew what sad work the reading of old letters was before that evening, though I could hardly tell why.  The letters were as happy as letters could be - there was in them a vivid and intense sense of the present time, which seemed so strong and full, as if it could never pass away, and as if the warm, living hearts that so expressed themselves could never die, and be as nothing to the sunny earth."

And humor.  Lots of humor.  Take Miss Pole, for example, the town busy-body and gossip.  A conjuror comes to town and Miss Pole, determined to prepare scientific explanations for what she is about to see, sits down with an Encylopedia.  " Ah!  I see;  I comprehend perfectly.  A represents the ball.  Put A between B and D - no!  between C and F, and turn the second joint of the third finger of your left hand over the wrist of your right H.  Very clear indeed!  My dear Mrs Forester, conjuring and witchcraft is a mere affair of the alphabet!"

All in all, a lovely read.  Highly recommended.

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