I just finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Cranford the other day, and I have to say that I feel a little tricked. Not that I didn’t like the book, it’s just not what I was expecting. I had heard about the BBC version that came out in 2007 to wild acclaim, and I began to wonder what all of the fuss was about. I could dimly recall that it was a story about a bunch of old women in a small town who pretty much just visited each other. But with all of the glowing reviews and awards surrounding the miniseries, I thought it might be worth it to take another look.
Upon a second reading, I found that Cranford is about a bunch of old women in a small town who pretty much just visit each other. All of the other fun, scandalous events in the miniseries were either taken from another Gaskell novel or else just “beefed” up from the original. See – I was tricked!
But no matter. The book is charming in its own way, especially if you go in for that sort of thing – afternoon tea, calling on people, using candles. Stuff like that. I’m a moderate fan of Gaskell; Wives and Daughters, a sort of re-telling of Cinderella but in Victorian England, was fun, Mary Barton was an interesting “social novel,” but Ruth, about a “fallen” woman, was just tolerable. Gaskell can get too religious and sentimental, and if I want that kind of book I’ll go to George Eliot.
But I don’t plan on watching the false and misleading Cranford miniseries with Dame Judi Dench and Michael Gambon, no matter how many awards it collected. On principle, you know.