The fictional town of Cranford is closely modeled on Knutsford in Cheshire, which Mrs Gaskell knew well. The book has little in the way of plot and is more a series of episodes in the lives of Mary... More > Smith and her friends, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two spinster sisters. The "major" event in the story is the return to Cranford of their long-lost brother, Peter, which in itself is only a minor portion of the work, leaving the rest of the novel at a low-key tone.
Gaskell's witty and poignant comedy of country-town life, a gently comic picture of life in an English country town in the mid-nineteenth century, Cranford describes the small adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances.
Rich with humor and filled with vividly memorable characters, including the dignified Lady Glenmire and the duplicitous showman Signor Brunoni, Cranford is a portrait of kindness, compassion, and hope.< Less
Because of theological doubts, the Rev. Mr. Hale gives up his living as a Church of England priest. He, his wife, and their daughter, Margaret, leave the idyllic village of Helstone, in Hampshire in... More > the South, and move to Milton, an industrial town in the North. For most of her youth Margaret, now eighteen or nineteen, has been brought up in London by her wealthy Aunt Shaw; she has rejoined her parents only after the marriage of her vivacious but shallow cousin Edith to Captain Lennox. The captain's brother, Henry, a rising barrister, had asked for Margaret's hand but, regarding him as just a friend, she declined his offer.
Settling in smoky Milton, the Hale women are troubled by urban dirt and commercial go-getting. Mr. Hale now works as a tutor. His favourite pupil is the important manufacturer, Mr. Thornton. Staying to tea, Thornton debates with the naive, "humanistic" Hales about the condition of the working class, strikes, and the other mill owners.< Less
The novel opens with young Molly Gibson, who has been raised by her widowed father. Visiting the local 'great house', Molly feels tired so she is sent to rest in the former governess's room. The... More > woman, Clare, makes noise about her kindness to Molly, but is actually careless and thoughtless of Molly's concerns. The afternoon passes and Clare forgets about Molly and she misses her ride home after the picnic. The little girl is distressed at the idea of staying the night away from home and is relieved when her father comes to collect her.< Less