I bookmooched this book back in July of 2010. I did not know anything about Cranford, only that the dear lady I was tutoring in how to use a PC – email, internet and such, recommended it as her very favorite book ever. I love to ask people their favorite books (even though, I find it a difficult question to answer myself) and she did not hesitate to name Gaskell’s Cranford. I had to have it!
Just click on the book cover above to go read a synopsis. Or click here for a favorable thorough review by Lola. I specifically chose her post because it is 1) short, and 2) links to two other reviews that are EXCELLENT. Go.
So. I attempted it once. I’ve attempted it twice. Just couldn’t get hooked. I found myself rereading sentences because I totally failed to recall what I had just read.
When it was my time to select or offer books for book club, I gathered up all the more ‘classic’ books I had on my shelves begging to be read. I was thinking we needed a push to read something, ahem, more
refined older classic. It had been suggested the month’s chooser-person present just ONE book rather than a few to vote on but I COULD NOT DECIDE! I was way too overwhelmed. The group voted for Cranford. I secretly was hoping for Brideshead Revisited which was a close second. I didn’t vote.
I now had a reason to commit. For the third time, I opened this book. And then I got nervous, “Oh, great, EVERYONE* is going to HATE this. SOB!” Dread was hitting me like a bucket of lead.
I got to the point, once again, that seemed insurmountable and I had to push through.
I loved it. Not highly loved it, but loved it for FOUR slices of pie! I don’t recall a mention of pie in the book so not sure what kind of pie…
I loved the gentle sly wit. The keen characterisation. The descriptions of social conventions and the fear and aversion of men. (Such uncouth beasts. Shudder.) The way the gals rallied to support Matty when she found herself [spoiler alert! Just highlight the blank space at the right:] destitute. I even cried! More than once I got sniffles. I thought it captured beautifully a time long ago and the trials women faced. I can see why it is beloved.
I suppose I get that some people might not choose it nor like it for reading fun. The question that bugs me is did I end up liking it because it was my selection? How will I ever know?
Still, it’s almost funny to read the abhorrence this gets by some on goodreads. Loathing?! really? Thank gawd it was under 200 pages then. So, allow me to share from one of the one POSITIVE and insightful reviews I found:
“… it’s lovely, because, in a subtle sort of way and without the characters themselves being aware of it, we see the outer layers stripped away, the worldly mental and emotional baggage put down, and peer quietly at naked souls. Not particularly exciting souls, just normal little souls, going about and trying to figure out where they belong in the world. It was a wonderfully enjoyable way to […] quietly remember the humanity of everyone around me, …”
2 gigot – a leg of mutton or lamb.
16 quondam – that once was; former
33 recondite – little known; abstruse
40 naming cows by the alphabet – amusing
51 tears – almost cried when Martha is allowed to have ‘followers’
53 mesmeric – causing a person to become completely transfixed and unaware of anything else around them
89 sedulously – showing dedication and diligence
107 betimes – before the usual or expected time; early
123 videlicet – namely: as follows (which is pronounced three different ways?)
142 elephant!! Mentioned because last book for club was about elephants
* So far, one of my bookclubbers has given it ONE STAR in goodreads. oh no.