A few months ago I read North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It was the first of her books that I had read and I really did enjoy it a lot. She writes in a similar vein the Jane Austen, though I must admit that I did enjoy Gaskell’s book quite a lot more than Pride & Prejudice (and I love Pride & Prejudice). So naturally I was quite looking forward to reading another of Gaskell’s works, Cranford.
While Cranford was only a very short book, it was an effort to get through. It wasn’t because the writing was poor or thecharacters were uninteresting, it really was because there didn’t seem to be much of a plot. Admittedly, I was lost from the opening pages and the blurb on the back of the book is very misleading (I know, I know – never judge a book by its cover). The book just started. It almost seemed like the second half of a book, rather than a book in it’s entirety. The opening chapter did little to set the scene for me and this basically meant that I had little love for the rest of the book. What I imagined, was a portrayal of middle-class life in the English countryside, with a little bit of romantic drama thrown in and a happy ending that would make me cry if it was a film. I did get the portrayal of middle-class life, but unfortunately it revolved around a group of aging, never-want-to-be-married, women. Not that I’m against having characters like this in a book, but for the all of the main characters to be like this, well it gets a bit boring.
I’m not going to carry on about this book for too long. I really didn’t enjoy it that much and I this post is looking like more of a commentary on what I didn’t like about the book, rather than a review. I felt that the characters were all just gossipy old ladies, who really didn’t gossip about anything interesting. They were all a little bit too concerned about what everyone was thinking of them to actually come across anything exciting. The entire town of Cranford are people just like this, which I think makes for a rather unpleasant place to live in, but I suppose in the mid-1800’s it wouldn’t have been seen that way. The only character I did like, was dispensed of rather early on in the book which I was a bit annoyed with as I thought this person would have a much larger role to play than what they did. The scenes rarely changed – I found that the ladies were either constantly at each others homes having tea and playing card games, or holed up at home reminiscing on days gone by.
I don’t like being too negative about books. I usually find something about a book that I like, but the more I think about this one, the less I like it. I don’t know if it’s just a case of me getting my hopes up based on another book by the same author, but I really wouldn’t recommend this if you enjoyed North & South. They are in no way alike and reading Cranford may lower the esteem that you have for the author.