Cranford. A town comfortable in its aging skin, full of women whom have scarcely left its boundaries and whose companionship and small dramas are the meat of life. Our narrator is a bit of an outsider - she lives in another town but comes and stays with two of our main characters, the spinster sisters Deborah and Matty. Deborah, firm and harsh to a fault, Matty timid and ever-gracious. Their relationships with their neighbors and with new-comers, especially, is at the heart of this absolutely delightful novel.
Sharp and witty writing - Gaskell's tongue-in-cheek and gentle mocking of her characters through the narrator was so fun to read. Matty is such a special lady, and Miss Pole, especially, is a riot. There are tender moments and bits that made me chuckle to myself, their problems are sometimes so trivial and other times so heartbreaking. I loved being in a small British town in a time when a traveling magician was the highlight of the year, people might be inclined to knit pajamas for their cows to keep them warm and a new dress was the greatest splurge. Mostly, it was just as comfortable as a favorite old sweater or a soft chair sitting in a sunny spot. I felt right at home in that town and with those women, I wouldn't change a thing about this story.