Agnes Grey

Most book lovers have heard of the Bronte sisters. And it’s pretty hard to be a romance loving biblophile without reading at least Jane Eyre OR Wuthering Heights…if not both. Charlotte and Emily are famous names in reading culture. Their tropes are everywhere, from the dark and brooding Heathcliffe-like teen boys in YA EVERYTHING, to the plain Janes of this world who go unnoticed but have so much to offer.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that there was a third Bronte sister, Anne. I’ll admit, she’s missing from my shelf too, as I look up at my two beautiful Barnes and Noble Leatherbound copies of the two books above.

But this weekend, I sat down with Agnes Grey, and I fell just as much in love with Anne Bronte as I did with the more recognizable sisters, and I wonder why she is not just as famous.

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At it’s base, Agnes Grey the basic 1800s story of a young girl from a family on the outskirts of society, who decides to become a governess, and falls in love with one of the men she meets along the way. Pretty typical baseline for that period.

However, there are some things I want to point out that interested in the characters and the story:

1. Mrs. Grey could have been rich. She came from a wealthy family, but fell in love with a poor man, and even though her father disowned her, she married him anyway.

2. Agnes was the youngest child, and doted on. When her family needed money, she decided she was going to become a governess to help earn it, even though her mother and sister told her they would handle the situation and she should stay home and be idle. She was determined to help.

3. I’m not sure if they had a diagnosis for “sociopath” in the 1800s, but the first children certainly showed signs of it. The older boy, Tom, liked to trap sparrows and pull their heads and wings off for sport, because “he was not a bird and so he couldn’t feel what they felt”. His father even encouraged this behavior. His sister was much the same way. It was very alarming. I was very glad that the book was not staged around that house for long.

4. I loved Mr. Weston. He was just so sweet and friendly, really quite adorable in how he just wanted to spend time talking with her, without being a bumbling fool like some guys can be in these novels.

 

I could go on, but it’s just a sweet, simple novel. Nothing overly complicated or twisted or dark. I was expecting something a little more gothic, because of her sisters’ writing styles, but this is really nothing like that. The romance is almost set up more like a Jane Austen novel, but with much less drama. It made for a very nice Sunday afternoon.

 

Fulfills Boxall  #88

 

 

WWW Wednesday 4/22/2015

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What are you currently reading?

The Turn of the Screw, The Aspern Papers and Two Stories by Henry James

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

 

What did you just finish reading?

The True American by Anand Giridharadas

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Good Girl by Sarah Tomlinson

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Fan Girl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Roots by Alex Haley

Jane Eyre

I keep seeing this post floating around on Tumblr about how Charlotte Bronte fell in love with Jane Fairfax from Emma, and so she wrote a fanfiction about her as a governess. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that post was enough to get me to read both Emma and Jane Eyre somewhat back to back!

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This is my second read-through (I listened to the audiobook when I was in college), and I love Jane Eyre even more now than I did the first time. Of course I always get more from a book by actually reading than listening.

Jane is such a prim, proper, plain-looking character. If you look up an images search of the way she’s been portrayed over the years, she always looks so delicate. But Jane Eyre is anything but soft. She maybe a woman with very strict ideals–but she fights for those ideals with conviction and a steady conscience. Not much can sway her.

This book is so much more than a love story. Of course, the romance is there, but that really isn’t the important part of the narrative. What else do we have?

  1. Child abuse
  2. Poverty
  3. Epidemic
  4. Feminism
  5. Mental Illness
  6. Importance of family ties and friendship
  7. Hypocrisy
  8. Disability

And the list could go on and on, but this is the major stuff that I noticed. All this from a Victorian/Gothic novel. You don’t see that happen to often.

I did have one question to pose, maybe someone out there can answer it for me.

One thing I am always curious about with 1800s women’s literature is why they never give the names of places (and sometimes dates). It’s always –shire or S(…setting). Is it a lack of creativity regarding places, or was there some unspoken rule about listing where the setting was? London is always mentioned, and Bath, but anywhere else is left to mystery. It’s always so frustrating to me, and I can not help but wonder why this is!

WWW Wednesday 4/8/2015

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What are you currently reading?

The Turn of the Screw, The Aspern Papers and Two Stories by Henry James

Atonement by Ian McEwan

 

What did you just finish reading?

The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit

Emma by Jane Austen

The Iron King by Maurice Druon

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

 

This list may change. I’m picking up a stack of library books from my hold requests tonight, so who knows what I’ll actually read next!

Uncle Silas

I feel like I haven’t posted much lately, but I have been neck deep in Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. This is one of those All Attention Required books. And unfortunately…I didn’t do a very good job of giving it my full focus. I know that I rushed through it, and even still, it seemed to drag on forever.

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The first 25% of the book was decent. While the author was male, the narrator is a female from the 1800s, so it felt very Brontesque at first. And then…it started to twist and turn into a very dark gothic, almost ghost story. It is going to take a second read for me to understand all of the mysterious plots that are afoot in this tale, but something is so very awry here.

You start by thinking it’s a girl and her dear old father, and they are alone in their rich old manor. Eventually, she’s going to have suitors right? That’s what happens in these types of stories. There’s a spooky, estranged uncle, and a crazy, dear aunt-figure (a cousin, really, but she’s way older than Maud). Oh, and don’t forget the drunk governess.

I’m putting this on my Try Again list. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. Mostly, I just didn’t understand everything that happened. I liked the writing, at least once I got used to some of the accents used. And the characters are sufficiently complicated. Worthy read, just needs another run through.

Trees of Reverie September Readathon Daily Bookish Challenges Day Fourteen

You’ve just started to work at a bookstore or library – what are your top ten go-to book recommendations?

  1. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
  2. Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
  3. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austin
  4. The Thorn Birds by Colleen Mccullough
  5. Secret Garden by Frances Burnett
  6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  7. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  8. Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
  9. Quiet by Susan Cain
  10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte