The fictional town of Cranford is closely modeled on Knutsford in Cheshire, which Mrs Gaskell knew well. The book has little in the way of plot and is more a series of episodes in the lives of Mary Smith and her friends, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two spinster sisters. The "major" event in the story is the return to Cranford of their long-lost brother, Peter, which in itself is only a minor portion of the work, leaving the rest of the novel at a low-key tone. Gaskell's witty and poignant comedy of country-town life, a gently comic picture of life in an English country town in the mid-nineteenth century, Cranford describes the small adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Rich with humor and filled with vividly memorable characters, including the dignified Lady Glenmire and the duplicitous showman Signor Brunoni, Cranford is a portrait of kindness, compassion, and hope.
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Originally published as a magazine serial and then printed in novel form in 1853, Cranford is a playful tour of a peculiar country town. From the stately, stern Miss Jenkyns to the timid Miss Betsy Barker and her flannel-wearing cow, the inhabitants are all acquainted, and all poised to overhear scandal.From the Back Cover:
Elizabeth Gaskell’s episodic second novel, sometimes dismissed as nostalgically “charming,” is now considered by many critics to be her most sophisticated work. The country town of Cranford is home to a group of women, affectionately called “Amazons” by the narrator, whose seemingly uneventful lives are full of conflicts, failures, and unexpected connections. A rich commentary on Victorian culture by one of its most astute observers, Cranford owes its enduring popularity to the complex pleasures it offers the reader.
This Broadview Edition provides an assortment of historical materials to put the novel in context, including Gaskell’s letters from the period of the novel’s writing, excerpts from texts read by the characters, illustrations from the novel and from contemporary periodicals, and other Victorian writings on industrialization, etiquette, and domestic life.
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