Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cranford Read-Along

The June Cranford Read-Along is hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.

Not having read anything of Elizabeth Gaskell's I thought this was a good opportunity to do so. As Cranford is only a short book there are only two posts - a progress post on 15th June and a final post on the 30th June.

I'm reading one chapter a day.

Chapter 1 - Our Society

An introduction to the village of Cranford which is 'in the possession of Amazons' and a description of 'the ladies of Cranford' who seem to be mostly single or widowed and living in redced circumstances.
The effect  of Captain Brown and his daughters coming to live amongst them.
A Cranford social evening with some conflict between Miss Jenkyns and Captain over the merits of Dr Johnson and Charles Dickens.

My Thoughts: Not the Victorian heavy I expected but very easy reading with a delightful touch of humour. I'm wondering who the narrator is - a visitor from outside Cranford and I'm assuming a woman.

Chapter 2 - The Captain

The narrator receives letters keeping her up to date with Cranford gossip and pays another visit in the summer.
The Miss Jenkynses have a new carpet.
The sad demise of Captain Brown and Miss Brown.
A happy ending for Jessica Brown.

My Thoughts: The format of this chapter makes me think this isn't a novel but a series of  recollections of big and small events in Cranford. The story of the new carpet is so funny and the Brown family losses so sad. Miss Jenkyns is revealing a very determined and kind inner person that is contrary to her rigid exterior . As it wasn't acceptable for women to attend funerals her decision to support Jessica shows great strength of character.

Chapter 3 - A Love Affair of Long Ago

A visit to Miss Pole and Miss Matty.
Helping Miss Matty train Martha, the new maid.
Eating oranges.
Miss Matty's love affair of long ago and the meeting with Mr Holbrook in the shop.

My Thoughts: The focus shifts to Miss Matty and getting to know her:
"In all things else Miss Matilda was meek and undecided to a fault".........she constantly worries that what she says and does will not meet the high standards of her sister and even though Miss Jenkyns has gone her influence remains strong.
"Miss Jenkyn's rules were made more stringent than ever, because the framer of them was gone where there could be no appeal"
The class barriers of the time are reflected in the relationship between Martha and her 'betters' and Mr Holbrook's lack of suitability to marry Miss Matty.

Chapter 4 - A Visit to an Old Bachelor

Mr Holbrook is Miss Pole's cousin and the three ladies accept an invitation to visit him for the day.
Mr Holbrook goes to Paris and becomes ill on returning.
In the autumn the narrator receives a letter saying Miss Matty is unwell.
Miss Matty  orders new caps and allows Martha to have a gentleman caller.

My Thoughts: A very sad chapter - I'm beginning to become very attached to little Miss Matty and think life has been most unkind to her. I imagined her to be older and was surprised when she says " Martha, I'm not yet fifty-two.'

Chapter 5 - Old Letters

The narrator ponders on individual economies admitting hers is string and Miss Matty's is candles.
Miss Matty reminisces on her youth and decides to be rid of old family letters.

My Thoughts: The rereading of the letters was an excellent way to provide the reader with information about the family's past.

Chapter 6 - Poor Peter

Miss Matty tells the narrator the story of her brother and the events that led to his leaving , the effect on his family, and his not being heard from again since the war in India. Her behaviour at the end reveals she's never given hope he'll one day return.

My Thoughts: More insights into Miss Matty and her family.

Chapter 7 - Visiting

Miss Betty Barker calls to issue an invitation to tea to which the Honourable Mrs Jamieson has agreed to attend.
Miss Matty becomes flustered and puts on two caps.
An account of the afternoon tea , the drinking of cherry brandy " We none of us had seen such a thing" and the card games that followed.
Mrs Jamieson reveals that her sister-in-law, Lady Glenmire, is coming to stay.

My Thoughts: A delightful and amusing picture of an outing for the Cranford ladies with all its social niceties and the sort of behaviour expected.

Chapter 8 - "Your Ladyship"

There is concern about the correct form of address to a 'Ladyship.'
Mrs Jamieson upsets everyone when she visits and insinuates she doesn't wish the Cranford ladies to call upon Her Ladyship.
Mrs Jamieson has reason to change her mind and invites them to a party.
The ladies purchase new caps for the party .
Lady Glenmire proves to be a delightful and friendly person.
Mrs Forrester tells her story about the cat and the lace.

My Thoughts: I'm still laughing at the picture of the ladies preparing for the party......."the ladies of Cranford always dressed with chaste elegance and propriety".........they can't afford new dresses so it's new caps and adorning themselves with brooches, the fashion accessory of the day. "I counted seven brooches myself on Miss Pole's dress".
And of course, the cat...........

Overall I'm enjoying Cranford immensely and I'm pleased I chose to read only one chapter a day because it slows me down , I can read it more than once , and really appreciate the writing. I love the humour and all the small details of 19th century everyday life. It's very different to what I imagined it would be.


  1. I watched the tv-series, sure no hunky guys, but nice enough :)

  2. I had this feeling before I picked it up that it was going to be one complete story, but it definitely isn't....but I do enjoy the little glimpses of life! The humor is great and I am really enjoying it!

  3. Im also reading one chapter a day and am enjoying the little distraction. Im quite interested in watching the TV show now.

  4. I definitely pictured Miss Matty as older before I read that line too! I think reading a chapter a day is a great idea. The first few blended together a bit for me because I read them in one sitting. I think I'll slow down for the second half.

  5. Love how you divide the novel into chapters. It really helps a forgetful person like me to have a recap to re-familiarize myself with the novel! Miss Matty does seem older, doesn't she?

  6. I love your break down for each chapter. I pictured Matty being older too, old and wise.