Written with acute observation, Cranford is by turns affectionate, moving and darkly satirical.
A witty and poignant portrait of small town life in an early Victorian-era English village, Cranford was first published in 1851 as a serial in the magazine Household Words edited by Charles Dickens.
Inspired by author Elizabeth Gaskell’s early life in Cheshire where she was raised by an aunt after her mother’s death and father’s re-marriage, Cranford revolves around the narrator Miss Mary Smith and the Amazons of the community: Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances.
Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women.
The Amazons of Cranford are not sheltered beings. Their stories are wonderfully funny, but bathed in a poignant, dreamlike mood found nowhere else in fiction.
Gaskell’s numerous diversions are variations on standard themes: the bank failure; the railway accident; the lost brother; the childhood sweetheart; but Cranford gains its unique atmosphere from the way Gaskell overturns conventions: narratives run backwards, combined with a lurching gulf between language and meaning. Profound ideas and strong values are to be found lurking beneath everyday details of sunshine, bonnets and flowers.
ELIZABETH GASKELL (1810 – 1865) was an English novelist and short story writer. Her fictions offered a meticulous portrait of Victorian society. Her first novel, Mary Barton, was published in 1848. Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1857, was the first biography about Brontë. Some of Gaskell's best-known novels are Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters.