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Book Review: “Cranford,” by Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: classic

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] “A portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid nineteenth century, Cranford relates the adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy in its depiction of such troubling events as Matty’s bankruptcy, the violent death of Captain Brown or the unwitting cruelty of Peter Jenkyns. Written with acute observation, Cranford is by turns affectionate, moving and darkly satirical.”

My Book Review: I am one of those who likes to read the book first before they watch the movie.  However, there are some exceptions to the rule, especially if I think I have no interest in reading the book but might bare to find out what it’s about through watching it’s screen adaptation.  Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, and am inspired to go on to read the original.  And that is exactly what happened with “Cranford.”

How interesting could a story be about a small town filled with elderly women? No—I’d loved Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Wives and Daughters,” (both book & film), and I’d planned to read and watch “North and South” (which I did), but Cranford looked too boring.  But I was hard up for a costume drama and had heard good reviews, so I finally caved and immediately fell in love with the movie’s charm.  The music, the characters, the humor… all was to be found in this beautifully directed film, starring Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins.  It was completely darling* and I was converted, determined to read the book.

I realize that the film series is actually based on a collection of Mrs. Gaskell’s smaller works of literature, and I intend to go on to read Mr. Harrison’s Confessions and My Lady Ludlow.  But in Cranford, I enjoyed reading about the many characters portrayed on screen and all of their eccentricities and habits of living.

“’…as Deborah used to say, we have always lived genteelly, even if circumstances have compelled us to simplicity.’”

One of my favorite parts was reading about Miss Matty’s visit to an old suitor, Mr. Holbrook. The description of his favorite comfortable room is a pleasant takeaway:

“The rest of the pretty sitting-room—looking into the orchard, and all covered over with dancing tree-shadows—was filled with books. They lay on the ground, they covered the walls, they strewed the table.  He was evidently half ashamed and half proud of his extravagance in this respect.  They were of all kinds—poetry and wild weird tales prevailing.  He evidently chose his books in accordance with his own tastes, not because such and such were classical or established favorites.”

SPOILER ALERT: It’s a shame Miss Matty never married him. END OF SPOILER. Obviously the poor lady suffered from a lot of codependence throughout her life, dependent on her parents and her strong-willed sister to make all decisions for her.  She is stretched beyond her comfort zone in an early plot twist that I’ve always regretted as I loved one of the characters who dies unexpectedly.

There are some discrepancies between book and movie. And fortunately in most of them, the movie’s changed elements were for the better.  For example, early on in the book the character of Captain Brown dies whereas in the movie he is a lovable, solid, male character that anchors the episodes.  I was sad to be deprived of him in the book.

However, many of the book’s details (even minute ones) remained intact throughout the series, as indeed much of what makes up Cranford is the beautiful, charming, small events of life. Sucking oranges, lace, and the conservation of candles are recognized and honored.  In fact, I believe I am glad I watched Cranford first before reading the book because it helped me understand some of the historical aspects that I would not have understood from just reading alone.  Conversely, reading about why the ladies went to their individual rooms to eat their oranges made much more sense in the book than watching it.

I mentioned I haven’t read the other two books in the Cranford Chronicles, and since I haven’t I do not know how much of the movie was added to with other characters and plot situations. But it certainly was in keeping with the spirit of Gaskell.  So much so that I can positively say I enjoyed the movie over the book.  Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite movie is, my answer is “Cranford.”

*However, it can always be possible to milk too much of a good thing which is what I believed happened to the second series and I didn’t enjoy it half so much.

Have you seen/read “Cranford”?  What did you think?

If you liked this book, I also recommend…

 

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Listen to “The Man Who Was Thursday” on BBC

Are you in the mood for a little G. K. Chesterton?  I enjoyed reading “The Man Who Was Thursday” a few years ago (see my book review here), but I am enjoying Geoffrey Palmer’s reading of it even more!  For a limited time, you can listen to it for free on BBC Radio 4.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Book Review: “The Melting of Molly,” by Maria Thompson Daviess

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Genre: classic

Plot Summary: Molly, a young widow, has a problem: she needs to lose weight and fast!  An old beau is renewing his acquaintance by coming back to his old hometown where she still lives, but she looks nothing like she did 10 years ago.  The only one who can help her attain her goal is the next door doctor.  But he likes her as she is.  What’s a girl to do when several men start to pay her more attention?

My Book Review: This was a fast, enjoyable read!  I originally discovered it on Librivox (listen to it for free here) and soon after found an old copy of it at a library book sale.  I found it cute that, in a story about a girl on a diet, a bookworm chewed a neat little hole through the edges of the pages.  🙂

The story takes place in the Gibson girl era, where things were not much different than they are today in that a woman’s worth was often judged on the dimension of her waistline. Only they had corsets back then to help them out.  Molly is a delightfully funny character, honest and vain, but thoroughly woman.  I loved the old illustrations throughout the book as well.  And the doctor was a swoon!  Perhaps one can see the ending from the start, but poor Molly can’t and it’s fun to watch her transformation when all the time she has a good man’s unconditional love.

This book is a simple read. Don’t expect too much out of it.  But if you are wanting to get into a cute little love story, this entertaining novel will probably satisfy.  Just ask the bookworm.

I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Club of Queer Trades,” by G. K. Chesterton

18834844Genre: mystery; classic

Plot Summary: [from Wikipedia:] “The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905.  Each story in the collection is centered on a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means…  To gain admittance one must have invented a unique means of earning a living and the subsequent trade being the main source of income.”

My Book Review: If you’ve come to this blog post thinking you were going to read something on sexual identities, sorry to disappoint.  Once upon a time the word ‘queer’ was used to mean ‘peculiar’.  (I suppose ‘peculiar’ means something else now, too.  We’re so creative as to assign a double meaning to every word that already exists.)

There are ordinary men who lead ordinary lives with their chosen ordinary careers. And then there are others who take a different route in life.  They are the eccentrics, the colorful, and the crazy.  …Or are we, as ordinary citizens, the crazies?

If someone asked you to invent a whole new career that had never been thought of before, do you think you could do it and make money from it? Not merely recycling an existing career, substituting one thing for another, but actually coming up with a line of trade that’s never been done before.  It’s harder than it at first seems.  Of course, there would have to be a market for it.  And in the case of many of the extraordinary tradesmen in this collection of short stories, their careers are kept secret either because of the nature of their work, or because they would be thought insane.

As one would guess, this leads to many bizarre circumstances of ordinaries encountering these oddbodies (or geniuses) in society. The facts are there in front of their noses, but they can’t make sense of them.  It takes a remarkable fellow straddling the best of both worlds to make sense of the mysterious cases brought before him.  It makes for a curious read.

4b4f62db81ff23d0d0a99f7b0870ecddAlthough I usually dislike short story collections, I was glad this was written as it was. I didn’t particularly feel in the mood for a novel-length Chesterton at the time.  Sometimes he’s best taken in ‘doses’ because he can be so thick in his nonsense.  🙂  Really, G.K. was such a Mad Hatter!  Chesterton is never for those wanting a nice little story.  And it definitely isn’t my favorite book of all time.  But I enjoyed reading it anyway, because he picks you out of the mundane and makes you view the world at a different angle.  It gives the brain a good exercise!

I would say my favorite chapter story was “The Adventures of Major Brown”, in which a man is caught in an awfully good escapade, but doesn’t realize how much fun it was until it was over! How often are we the same in life?  We read novels for “escape” or to pseudo-live other “experiences”, but when some adventure happens in real life we are too overwhelmed to enjoy it in the moment.  Then of course, there’s the debate over modern-day video games.  Guys are so eager to play at fantasy games because it feeds something deep in their souls- the need for adventure.  But what happened to living real life?  Life is full of exciting experiences if only we accept its opportunities.

You can listen to the audiobook on Librivox by clicking here.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Winter 2016-17)

Life is full of secrets and adventures…  Read all about them this winter in these two fascinating books!

17623735101 Secrets for Your Twenties, by Paul Angone~ I first heard of this book when I heard the author interviewed on Moody Radio by Melinda Schmidt. I was about to turn 27 and was convinced I was having a quarter life crisis.  And so I came across this interview that I had saved on ‘Programs to Listen to Sometime Before They Expire’ list and decided it was a good time to hit the play button.  I liked Paul Agone (see his website here) and his message.  He could empathize on the struggles of Twenty-somethings, having just graduated to his Thirties and being a Millennial himself.  The topics they discussed resonated withme, and I knew I wanted to read his book.  Problem was, none of the libraries among all of my state’s vast interlibrary loan systems had it.  My solution was to order a copy for my church library.  I knew if I could benefit from it, so could others.  (:) But I got first dibs! Ha ha!)  I wish that I had had this book much earlier, but better late than never.  Angone has a humorous writing style and had me Laughing Out Loud (I refuse to abbreviate) throughout.  But more importantly, there are many spots I want to copy out into my quotebook before I turn this over to the church.  It makes life much more bearable when you know that others are going through similar hurdles as they live out their adulthood.  It gives one hope that these same hurdles have purpose.  The author is a Christian and writes from that worldview, but is not preachy.  I suggest this for anyone anywhere in their twenties, and would make a good gift for highschool/college grads.

1441778The Lost Shipwreck of Paul, by Robert Cornuke~ It’s hard to remember when or where I learned of bible explorer Robert Cornuke. Somehow I just ran into his adventures while surfing the internet many years ago and became intrigued by him.  As a former police investigator (and now president of the BASE Institute), Cornuke has made it his mission to explore mysteries from the Bible, such as… The Lost Ark of the Covenant, the location of the real Mt. Sinai, and Noah’s Ark.  Even though many, many people have tried their best to hunt for the same things and made great claims, Cornuke is no sensationalist.  He treats the people he meets and interviews with respect, often gaining their trust and having access to places many other outsiders are not able to obtain.  He also has some unique theories that appear to come closer to the truth than many others.  I’ve been wanting to read one of his books for a long time, and have finally got my hands on one of the least talked about.  I’m still in the middle of reading it, but it is fascinating.  I love how he tells of his adventure from a storyteller’s point of view,– building suspense and making it a fun read.  I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.  If you want to watch some of his videos, Youtube has several of them, including the Temple of YHWH.  I highly recommend them!  You can visit his website here.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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BBC Audiobook: Winnie-the-Pooh

3c22fde7610bf01818b37bc9de298973What do heffalumps, woozles, birthday parties, and very tight places all have in common?  Why Winnie-the-Pooh of course!  And autumn is the perfect time to settle in for the evening with some classic Pooh-bear stories read by Alan Bennett.  So grab your children, grandma and grandpa, too and get ready to go on an expotition!  Only available for a limited time.

 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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A Visit from Johnny Heller

serveimageHi! It’s been a while since I’ve had some time to sit down to blog…  I thought I’d tell you about an interesting opportunity I had to go see a professional audiobook narrator perform live!

If you love audiobooks and have ever listened to “Marley & Me”, the “Horrible Harry” childrens’ series, or “Lusitania”, chances are you probably were listening to the voice of Johnny Heller.  Having narrated over 200 titles, won many different awards including a few Audie Awards, Heller has been named among the top 50 narrators of the 20th century by Audiofile Magazine.  Last June Johnny Heller came to a library in my local area.

I really appreciated that he and his wife came all the way from New York, even though there wasn’t as big of a turnout as was expected.  It didn’t seem to bother them and Mr. Heller was gracious and relaxed as he started out the evening by describing the process of creating an audiobook.  He brought humor to it all as well, when he chose a couple of his favorite excerpts from past projects he’s recorded.  I was also pleased to hear that he explained he doesn’t accept reading titles that go against his values, such as books that denigrate women.

During the last part of his visit, he accepted Q&A time, and I got to ask him two questions that I had.  I only wish I could have asked him more.  It never occurred to me to take pictures, so sorry about that oversight!  It was a fun evening, I wish it had been longer– but thank you Mr. Heller for coming to perform! 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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