I watched the BBC "Cranford" DVD set with Judi Dench as Miss Matty. This got me interested in Elizabeth Gaskell, so I got this book from the library to read.Elizabeth Gaskell wrote in the same time period as Jane Austen. She, like Austen, focuses on the tiny and small things that make up a community where everything is talked and gossiped about and little escapes the scrutiny of the town members. Cranford is a little English town with a high number of single women and widows residing there. After Napoleon, this condition was unfortunately very common because so many man had been killed in the wars.The book is a sweet portrait of life with a group of women who have known each other their entire lives and have seen the community grow and develop in ways that they don't entirely approve of but nevertheless live with. Yet the stories are told with a real sweetness and love for the characters who have their strange idiocyncracies. In the hand of another author, the characterizations would have become cruel or demeaning. Elizabeth Gaskell manages to make them kind yet true to life.There is no underlying depth in this book as I have seen in Jane Austen's books. There is little plot, mostly stories about different happenings in the town that happen over a period of time. Amusements, long lost romances that are examined and then set aside, deaths, marriages, and the return of a long lost and loved brother. These happenings are narrated by Mary Smith, the young friend of the elderly spinster sisters, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, around whom most of the situations take place.Amusing situations include the lace eaten by the cat, "the panic" in which Cranford is held in fear of robberies and possible spies from France, and in the many little details here and there of a quiet but full life in a small English town.I recommend reading it, although I would not qualify it as literature as significant as Austen's books.