The Book Group: Cranford

To mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Elizabeth Gaskell’s final Cranford-set work, we focus on one of her most beloved novels.

Based around the community of Knutsford, Cheshire in the 1840s, Mrs. Gaskell’s Cranford centres on the (predominantly) female inhabitants of the village. Featuring her customary wit and subtle political polemic, the novel has been adapted for the small screen several times.

The most celebrated of these, broadcast in 2007, boasts an all-star cast, including Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton. As well as the original novel, the series also uses Gaskell’s novellas My Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison’s Confessions as inspiration. It makes fascinating comparison with the 1972 adaptation starring Gabrielle Hamilton and Fabia Drake, while for those who want to learn more about the author, the Omnibus special Who the Dickens is Mrs Gaskell? is also available.

If you think the one thing Cranford lacks is showtunes, we also present a charming BBC musical version from 1976. Tap your toes to such catchy numbers as “She Never Could Say No” (about puddings) and “Elegant Economy” (about bonnets).

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