Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

I really enjoyed the recent Masterpiece Classics version of this novel and so finally picked up the crumbling (but still lovely) copy that belonged to some unidentified ancestor of mine. And I fell for the book just as I did the TV version. It made me want to move immediately to an old English village and drink tea while gossiping with the neighbors. The characters, mostly a group of single women in a small village whose old ways are becoming ...well, old... are treated with a great deal of humor and yet it's never truly at their expense because Gaskell makes clear how loyal and good they are despite being fairly ridiculous. It's a good lesson in how you can mock a character's behavior and yet still balance the mockable behavior with honorable behavior...and end up with a book that is funny and optimistic and all about how nice people can be to each other. It made me think of the movie Lars and the Real Girl (Ryan Gosling, yes, very nice) which takes as its premise what if a guy lost his mind (he falls in love with a doll--yes, let's stick with calling it a doll) and everybody in town is nice to him instead of mocking him. And it ends up being a really optimistic movie about how kind people can be. A nice balance to the largely pessimistic world of most artistic endeavors.

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