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Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was a Victorian writer with an agenda of social criticism. Her Cranford novels (Cranford, Mr. Harrison’s Confessions, and My Lady Ludlow are combined in the Vintage Classics edition, if you can find it) chronicle the lives of the women--spinster sisters Matty and Deborah, their kind-hearted and observant friend Mary Smith, and their many gossiping neighbors--in the market town of Cranford, a town facing social and economical changes as the Victorian age of progress pushes closes and closer. Gossip rules the lives of these women, whether it be talk of the railroad or the new bachelor doctor’s love interests. The stories are episodic and comic, the characters are realistic and loveable, and the narration is witty and intimate. Like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell focuses on women and the events that are important to them: love and marriage of course, but also loss, death, and consequences that result from paths not taken. For readers who enjoy the gentle social criticism of Jane Austen’s books, Cranford is another portrait of the way of life of a time and place that has passed us by.
posted Jun 26, 2009 at 4:24PM
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