And I say that because Cranford was a book club pick for one of my book clubs in June 2013. I’ve been putting it off for a variety of reasons–the two most pressing being other books due at the library and a concern for my concentration capabilities–but the time was now, and I have finished! (Well, almost. I’m technically still working on the last appendix.) And I have to say, I enjoyed it in a quiet sort of way. It doesn’t have the sort of gripping plot that helps you stay awake when you’ve been up with the kids one too many times and shouldn’t be reading at 11:30, but I found it quietly amusing and never boring. (As long as you enjoy that sort of thing, and I do.) It’s a series of vignettes about the town of Cranford, which is based on a town that Elizabeth Gaskell lived in for a significant portion of her life. Death, marriage, birth, drastic changes in fortune, lost love…all of these things are dealt with in a very English fashion. Gaskell takes a tone of mingled affection and amusement, which was enjoyable, although possibly not distinctive. (The only other thing of Gaskell’s I’ve looked through was her bio of Charlotte Bronte, but that was in context of a paper on Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre I wrote in college; I couldn’t begin to tell you my impression of it as an individual book. It was, rather, one of a series of biographies I was using.) I wouldn’t mind reading another novel by her, but I’m not led to commit to one any time soon.
Incidentally, I tried to start it months ago, only to find that I had the WRONG edition. Don’t be seduced by Judi Dench on the cover–you need the Penguin Classic edition that has the appendices at the end. Otherwise, you will be driven mad inside of five pages by references to appendices that aren’t there to refer to. By the time I rectified this mistake, I’d started something else, and it (clearly) took me a while to get back to it. It isn’t clear whether the edition linked to this post has them, so if it doesn’t, get the one with the black cover that’s just Cranford. If nothing else, the last Cranford tale can be found there (but not in the book proper), and it was possibly my favorite.