Friday, 27 March 2015

"Cranford" by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell- born 1810, captures my interest.  She was a Victorian woman, who wrote about small-town customs and values.  She was the daughter of a minister as well as the wife of a minister.  Her husband was said to be scholarly, austere, dry and rule-bound. Does this picture look like one that her husband would have condoned?

Perhaps Elizabeth interests me because she must have been a bit radical for her day. She belonged to a sisterhood of free-thinkers such as Florence Nightingale and Charlotte Bronte.  Her friend, Charles Dickens, published "Cranford" in installments in the magazine "Household Words".  It is the perfect book for reading in this serial form, because it is not one narrative, but individual stories of the women of Cranford.

  These stories come from the author's memories of her childhood.  They are about propriety and class.  People had nothing to do with the class immediately below theirs. They were concerned about 'aristocratic society".
  One of the characters in the novel, Miss. Deborah Jenkyns, was the leader in understanding the strict code of gentility and the other women followed her example.  Even after Miss. Deborah died, the women tried to figure out what she would do in any situation.  The women were afraid that if they relaxed the rules, they would have no "society" at all.
  The first chapter is titled "Our society".  Quote: "All the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women.....A man is so in the way in a house".  
  The ladies of Cranford were quite sufficient and eccentric in a way.  They were people of moderate means but they never spoke of poverty.  I loved how they were often changing their caps for different situations.  Once, Matty forgot to take off one cap before putting on the other one.

  "Cranford" is a classic and when it was being made into a movie, Judy Dench fit perfectly into the role.  The movie was filmed in Lacock, England.
  On one of my trips with Bookwomen, we were staying in Bath and travelled to Lacock, an interesting town that has been preserved in the 19th century style. The town is known for the filming that is done there- including some of the Harry Potter movies.
   The town was settled around the Lacock Abbey in the 13th century.

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