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Cranford, the best-known of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels, was first published in 1851 as a serial in the magazine Household Words (edited by Charles Dickens).

Warning: wikipedia contains spoilers

The fictional town of Cranford is closely modelled on Knutsford in Cheshire, which Mrs Gaskell knew well. The book has little in the way of plot and is more a series of episodes in the lives of Mary Smith and her friends, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two spinster sisters. The major event in the story is the return to Cranford of their long-lost brother, Peter.