My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As an ardent Jane Austen fan, I have spent years searching for a worthy successor to books like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. As much as I enjoy reading and re-reading my favorite Austen novels, I couldn’t help hoping that someday I would discover another book or author who could approach Jane Austen’s wit and charm. I’ve never warmed to the idea of other authors taking liberties with Austen’s characters and stories and so I was becoming rather discouraged. And then, I discovered Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.
The utterly delightful Cranford had the same feel and sensibilities as a Jane Austen novel, while having its own style and charms and a cast of characters that you couldn’t help but love. Ladies, who in other stories would be the quirky, background characters, were given center stage and a chance to shine. (Imagine Miss Bates from Emma and Mrs. Jennings from Sense and Sensibility as main characters and you would start to get the idea). And, while not shying away from the humor found in their weaknesses and eccentricities, Gaskell uses the ladies of Cranford to illustrate the beauty, kindness, loyalty, and loving hearts that can be found in women who are too often overlooked.
I am simply delighted to have discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and can’t wait to pick up more of her books. I hear that North and South is wonderful but if you have a favorite Gaskell novel that you think I should pick up next, I’d love to hear it!