Clare Wille's performance of this gently satirical look at a genteel English village in the first half of the nineteenth century may be the wittiest I've ever heard. Like a kinder version of E.F. Benson's Mapp v. Lucia novels, Gaskell's ladies of Cranford have their jealousies and their vanities. They also have moments of quiet tragedy (a lost brother, a suitor rejected to please the family but never forgotten) and of high drama. Wille made me laugh aloud at the pompous trumpeting of the late Reverend Jenkins. When Miss Poe comes in out of breath, you could swear Wille was running up stairs while delivering her lines. Her performance is always fully engaged, at one with the story, which is itself a small gem. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.