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review 2018-01-23 22:10
Cranford (Gaskell)
Cranford (Penguin Popular Classics) - Elizabeth Gaskell

"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.

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text 2017-09-07 01:12
Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 64 pages.
The Old Nurse's Story (Little Black Classics #39) - Elizabeth Gaskell

I adore Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. She can truly create a place that breathes and the Old Nurse Story is truly no different, if not a bit sad.  


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review 2017-08-21 19:00
Book Review: North and South
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

Book: North and South


Author: Elizabeth Gaskell


Genre: Fiction/Social Commentary/Coming-Of-Age/Romance


Summary: When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill-workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fused individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature. - Penguin Classics, 1995.

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review 2017-07-23 00:00
The Cranford Chronicles
The Cranford Chronicles - Elizabeth Gaskell A collection of the three short novels by Elizabeth Gaskell that were adapted into the BBC mini-series. There is a tentative connection between Confessions and Cranford, but I believe they were not originally meant to be read together. Still they go well together as observations of small town and village life in the early to mid 19th century.

Mr. Harrison's Confessions: 4 Stars.

A young doctor unwittingly gets in over his head in romantic entanglements when he begins his practice in a small town where he has mostly female patients.

Cranford: 5 Stars.

A lovely collection of anecdotes and wisdom from a community led by its women. The lack of plot is inconsequential.

My Lady Ludlow: 2 Stars.

Scarred by the French Revolution, a kindly English aristocrat must be brought around to accepting reform on her estate.
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review 2017-07-23 00:00
My Lady Ludlow
My Lady Ludlow - Elizabeth Gaskell My Lady Ludlow turns out to be the weakest link in the Cranford Chronicles. The story starts off well enough, with young Margaret Dawson being summoned to live with her distant cousin Lady Ludlow to lift some burden off of her family. The small village and the estate of Hanbury have their characters and all of their lives seem to rotate around the whims of 'my lady'.

All of this is to the good, but when the Gaskell moves the novel from shading Lady Ludlow's character with her experiences of the French Revolution to actually devoting a third (it felt like a third) of its pages to a detailed tragic story of her son's friend's attempt to save a cousin from the Terror. We're told before the story begins how its going to end so the twists and turns and near-misses in revolutionary Paris don't thrill, they irritate. Just bring out the guillotine already!

The thrust of the story seems to be Lady Ludlow's natural sympathies adjusting her aggressive anti-education and High Anglican sentiments to the 'modern' Regency standards of rural education and forgiving people for being in trade. Her kindness was always present, but masked behind her unwillingness to accept change of any sort.

Unlike Cranford whose plot is even slimmer than the above, My Lady Ludlow never develops a full community of characters and the social observations are fewer. It is not as rewarding or as warm a book as others by Gaskell.

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