"Although the ladies of Cranford know all each other's proceedings, they are exceedingly indifferent to each other's opinions ... but, somehow, good-will reigns among them to a considerable degree."
That passage from the first chapter of Cranford is actually a pretty good summation of what we learn about Miss Matty and her circle of friends in the succeeding set of linked stories (for a novel with an overarching plot this is not). The book is short (for a Victorian work!) easy and gently humorous, and it pokes fun at manners and mores that are far enough from today's that the already gentle satire bites not at all. Though in their little day-to-day exchanges, Mrs. Gaskell's characters can be horribly selfish and ignorant, yet without exception they have a core of goodness, and in the face of economic anxiety, which is the principal villain in this book without a villain, they do come together to support each other, even as they hedge their generosity around with a significant superfluity of social ridiculousness.
I read this on a plane flight and it went down quickly and smoothly, with smiles and just a bit of sentiment - like a cup of tea with an old friend.