Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Curious if true (Gaskell)

I rather enjoyed this tale of "short stories" from Mrs Gaskell, if partly because there were only 5 stories in the volume which meant that they were quite long and more like novellas than anything else. I've never actually read any Mrs Gaskell novels before, although I had come across the tale "The old nurse's story" which is in this collection, along with "The grey lady", "The poor Clare", "Lois the witch" and "Curious if true".

It's a reasonably recent VMC, just published once with a modern green cover edition and an introduction by Jenny Uglow.

PS: Has anyone read any novels by Mrs Gaskell? Are they also slightly chilling? And is there a good one to start with? I get the impression that she may be an author who I should discover, like having discovered Wilkie Collins last year.


  1. I've read North and South, though it was a while ago now. I remember really enjoying it, from what I recall she's quite straightforward and exploratory in her social novels.

    Unfortunately, that's the only book of hers I've read to date (unless you count The Life of Charlotte Bronte!). Though my copy of Mary Barton is glaring at me from the bookcase while I write this...

  2. Her novels are very different to the ghost stories. "North & South" is great, "Cranford" is superb, but my favourite is "Ruth". Elizabeth Gaskell was concerned to write about the social realities of her day & was often considered rather radical - hard to believe now. "Ruth" is the story of a naive girl seduced by a n'er do well rich man & Mrs Gaskell's family worried greatly that it's daring theme (sympathetic portrayal of the girl) might damage her socially! Oops, almost forgot "Mary Barton" which many people consider her greatest work.Again, it's a realist novel. Mrs Gaskell & her husband, a non-conformist minister, were aiding the pitifully poor workers depicted in the novel.Don't be put off if social realism isn't to your taste because much of her work is charming depictions of gentile life in the mode of "Cranford" & "Wives & Daughters" *And* you must read "Sylvia's Lovers".....ok, I admit I'm a bit of a Gaskell nut :)

  3. None of the novels I have read are chilling. My favourite is Cranford, a charming novel of spinsters and widows, a sort of Victorian cross between Jane Austen and Barbara Pym! Mary Barton and North and South are interesting novels looking at the social change that was occuring in England at the time of the industrial revolution.

  4. "The Old Nurse's Story" is one of my favorite ghost stories, but it's the only Gaskell I've read. My impression is that her novels are not at all chilling. I'll be starting with Cranford later this year.

  5. I've read a little Gaskell, but not nearly as much as I want! I LOVED Wives & Daughters (also a great BBC miniseries). Cranford is good but it's not so much a novel as a bunch of little vignettes about people in a town. The BBC series (also wonderful) also incorporated other stories and novellas set in the fictional town she created. I'm reading North and South with a book group this summer and I'm quite looking forward to it.

    I've only read one of her short stories, "The Old Nurse's Story" in a Virago ghost story collection, and I thought it was really good.

  6. EG's ghost stories are wonderful but her novels aren't chilling at all. I think my favourite is Wives & Daughters although I also love North & South & Ruth. She wrote lots of short stories & wrote sections of several of the Dickens Christmas numbers of Household Words that Hesperus have reprinted recently. Enjoy discovering a new author!