It took me a while to get into Cranford. Honestly, the only reason I made it past page 50 was because I’ve been extremely busy these past 2 weeks and I was craving something slow and low-key. I definitely got that with this book. Life in Cranford could not be any different from mine. Goodness, there is NOTHING going on in that town. Well, nothing in my opinion. The ladies of the village are quite busy visiting each other and gossiping and managing their little households. A new lodger who flaunts his poverty, the visit of a magician, and the rumored marriage of a titled lady to the appallingly honest doctor are enough to keep them occupied for days on end. Not exactly my idea of fun, but…
While I was still trying to decide whether it might not be appealing to have nothing to decide on in life other than which color to pick for a new bonnet and how long it might take me to commute to work on a horse—yes, my mind wandered quite a bit when I first started listening to the book—I suddenly realized that I had grown quite fond of the ladies. They cared for each other, and fretting over whether the bonnet’s color might not be too similar to another’s new bonnet was only proof of their caring natures.
Miss Matty, in particular, was such a gentle, good, and sweet character. I wanted to give her a hug more than once over the course of the book. Having been used to deferring to her sister DeBOHrah (emphasis on the second syllable, please) in everything, she had a hard time breaking her habits after her sister’s death. I cheered her on when she finally defied her dead sister and allowed her maid to visit with a potential suitor. I felt her sorrow when the man she wanted to marry when she was young, but couldn’t, died shortly after they got reacquainted in old age. And when Miss Matty lost all of her money in a bank failure, I started fretting over her wellbeing myself. Sweet Miss Matty, how glad I was to see some happiness restored to her life—though she certainly held her own as a tea merchant.
All throughout, Gaskell pokes gentle fun at her characters. There’s a dry humor threading through the narrative that I found entertaining, and her subtle jabs at the characters spreading gossip or judging prematurely did not go unnoticed. Overall, I thought it was an honest depiction of the gentility in 19th-century England. When I first started the book, I was disappointed because I didn’t think I would feel compelled to pick up Gaskell’s North and South, which has been sitting on my Classics shelf for a long time. But once I finished Cranford, I knew that I will definitely read it… eventually.