Friday, July 8, 2011

Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford

"Quaint" is the first word that comes to mind.  I would almost describe it as one of Eliot's idyllic novels, if it had been written by Dickens.  I would say that, if it weren't a disservice to all the authors involved.  Jane Austen would be a more apt comparison, if Austen's works were more episodic.  Mrs. Gaskell has a sweetness and a wit throughout the novel, with a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the inhabitants of Cranford, that brings to mind both the works of Dickens and Austen--especially the characterizations, which are quite good.  This is important, as with only a thin veil of a plot to tie to chapters together, the responsibility of drawing the reader in falls solely on the shoulders of her characters.  Moving from incident to incident, as was not uncommon in Victorian novels, the novel begs us to pay attention simply because the characters are worth giving our attention.  Obviously, a weak novel is one wants to study plot, but one could certainly choose a worth book to pick up to study the art of comedic characterization.  With less on it's mind than some of Gaskell's other works--from what I've read--Cranford is an easy, enjoyable read, but far from life changing.  It is simply a well-written, enjoyable read, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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