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Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday, 4 September '09: The ladies of Cranford

Lace collars, ribbons and eight yards of Indian muslin or taffeta for a new gown present agonising decisions for the ladies of Cranford in the new BBC series available on DVD for hire or purchase.
But the delightful tale of the inhabitants of the small Cheshire village (in reality, the village of Knutsford thirty odd miles from industrial Manchester, England in the 1840’s) is permeated with several darker moments. The appalling medical ignorance of the times meant that death struck young and old without mercy in mid-Victorian England. A rigid class system dictated relationships, especially love matches, and condemned the poor to illiteracy, unemployment and crime. And the pastoral peace of Cranford is continually under threat of progress, in the shape of the approaching railroad.
The series: Cranford is based loosely on the Mrs Gaskell’s novel and two other short works. Judi Dench plays the main role. As the sweet, dithery and generous spinster, Miss Matty, she holds the episodes together. Michael Gambon makes a worthwhile cameo performance as her former suitor, a crusty but kind farmer chasing his peas around his roast beef with a two-pronged fork.

I first read my little second-hand copy of Cranford by Mrs Gaskell during an overseas trip. The minutia of English country life as seen through the eyes of four spinsters and several other eccentric characters soothed the trials of 21st century travel. The humour had me chuckling out loud and the values of kindness and neighbourliness of the Cranford characters touched my heart.
If you have exhausted the novels of Jane Austen, the Brontes and George Eliot, I can recommend the rather neglected Mrs Gaskell. North and South and Mary Barton are both excellent tales, as is her biography of Emily Bronte.

10 comments:

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

I've added it to Netflix! I love these British pieces!xoxo :)

Sreddy Yen said...

Hmmm...it sure looks interesting~! I'll definitely try out Mrs Gaskell after I've finished all of Austen's works.

Tracy said...

I love the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell--Cranford, Wives & Daughters, and North & South are particular favorites. This new adaptation of Cranford was so delightful...I could watch it again! What a lovely post, Eleanor...Happy weekend :o)

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks so much -- I adore Austen but haven't read Gaskell. Will look into this.

VioletSky said...

This series has been on PBS in Ontario for awhile and I finally bought myself the book and am simutaneously watching and reading (though the timing is a bit off - I don't care, it is all enjoyable!)

SandyCarlson said...

I will take your recommendation!

Ms.Daisy said...

Eleanor,
I just recently watched Judi Dench in "Cranford" and absolutely loved it! You are so right...life in mid-1800's England was severe. I thought Judi and company brought it all to life beautifully! Thanks for visiting me - I have been very lax both in writing and visiting. Will have to do much better in future! :)

Hugs,
Jean

Betty said...

I was delighted to have you visit with me and thank you for the sweet birthday wish...

Dame Judi Dench is so talented and I always enjoy watching her in whatever role she portrays.

Wishing you God's richest blessings...Betty

Mary said...

Aaaaah! Dame Judy, what an amazing actress, and lovely woman. I first saw her in Cabaret on the London stage in the early '60's - she was wonderful then and has just aged so graciously.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

This sounds truly delightful, and I look forward to seeing the series and reading these books as well. Thank you for the review and suggestions.

XO,

Sheila :-)