Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Reading Cranford

One of the things I did over the holiday was read Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. It is terrific stuff, and the return of Miss Matty's long-lost brother, which I suspected had been an invention of the television scriptwriter, does indeed occur in the book.

As Kathryn Hughes says:
Read Cranford (1853) by all means - it is sublime. But don't expect it to be remotely like the telly. The pace is gentler, although the anti-man undertow of the ladies' conversations is even fiercer. Captain Brown, played by Jim Carter, is dead pretty much from the beginning, which, as Gaskell explains, is what tends to happen to any man who strays into Cranford.
And Hughes underlines her warning:
If your only knowledge of Cranford comes from the hit BBC production ... you're going to find reading Mrs Gaskell's original text a bit of a shock. Miss Matty's in there, of course, and Mary Smith and all the other gossipy old ladies, but Lady Ludlow (played by Francesca Annis) and Dr Harrison (scrummy Simon Woods) are nowhere to be seen. These last two belong to two other Gaskell stories, the seldom read My Lady Ludlow and Mr Harrison's Confession.

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