The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Information

Goodreads: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1884

Summary

When Wildfell Hall is let to a new tenant, Helen Graham, the neighbors wonder at her eccentricities, until one man gains her trust and the story of the painful past that led her to flee to this remote location.

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Review

When people discuss their favorite novels by the Brontë sisters, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall rarely comes up (unless you’re my co-blogger, who explains why The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is her favorite Brontë novel here), and perhaps that is because the novel is not as romantic as Jane Eyre and, yes, even Wuthering Heights are considered. It’s not a love story, after all, but rather a story about a woman caught in a loveless and abusive marriage that she never imagined. The remarkable insight that Anne Brontë offers into protagonist Helen Graham’s psyche, however, as well as the unflinching portrayals of men giving into different temptations and debaucheries to the suffering of the women around them make The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a masterpiece I am sorry I did not read soon.

The novel does have a frame narrative, which is always something I’m conflicted about because so often I get absorbed in the frame only to be broken away to hear a story from the past, and it was no different for me here. Readers are introduced to Helen Graham, the titular tenant of Wildfell Hall, who is clearly trying to walk a line between being private but not so reclusive that neighbors think she’s weird…and failing, based on the mystery and gossip that begin to surround her. I was caught up in the mystery myself, even though the footnotes gave me more hints than I cared for about why Helen was at Wildfell Hall; I would have liked to know if I would have figured out her story based on the foreshadowing if the editor hadn’t kept telling me the plot.

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However, the main story, the story of Helen’s courting and then marriage and its subsequent decline is incredibly compelling, more so than the frame narrative I had become so invested in. It’s a penetrating look into abusive marriages–how a young Helen, idealistic and certain she had found true love–fell into an ultimately loveless marriage with a man addicted to drinking and other women. It also gives a harsh reality check to those who think they might be able to reform bad men if they just do/say the right things or are good enough themselves. And, finally, it’s a compassionate look at why women in abusive relationships so often stay. (Yes, Helen had fewer options for leaving her husband due to the time period than she would today, but the psychological aspects of why she stays for so long seem timeless.)

I also enjoyed (if that’s the right word), the portrayals of Helen’s husbands friends–all of whom are heavy drinkers and generally terrible people, just in different ways. That is, Brontë doesn’t have a cardboard cutout “type” of a man who abuses his wife or just the people around him; she shows a whole range. Some drink more. Some drink less. Some get angry. Some lay hands on their wives, while some do not. One even tries his best to abstain from addictions like drinking and gambling but never has the strength to separate himself from his bad friends. Each is characterized with care, but the overall picture is not bleak because, rest assured, there are actually good men in the book, as well.

If you want a story about a strong woman or a story concerned with the inner lives of women and how they deal with bad relationships, check this out.

Briana
5 stars

Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontës by Isabel Greenberg

Glass Town

Information

Goodreads: Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontës
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

After the deaths of their two older sisters, Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell Brontë escaped into the imaginary world of Glass Town. But what happens when an imaginary world seems better than the real one? Will the Brontës be able to escape their own creation?

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Review

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg is powerful account of the lives of Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell Brontë, with a particular emphasis on Charlotte after the deaths of all her siblings. Beginning with a distressed Charlotte on the moors, the story moves back in time to describe how the four created the imaginary world of Glass Town to cope with the deaths of their two older sisters. Episodes from imagined Glass Town adventures intersperse the work, showing how fantasy twines with reality. Ultimately, the lure of the imaginary threatens to make the siblings, and Charlotte in particular, lose their grasp on reality.

Charlotte’s almost-obsession with her writing and her imaginary worlds seems well-documented. Many books recount how she began to lose the sense of what was around her when she was supposed to be teaching. Her life often seemed bleak and dull, and her imagination offered her an outlet that sometimes seems to have bordered on some sort of eroticism. Charlotte was intense. And Glass Town captures that–her passion, her desire, and her ultimate danger.

Emily, Anne, and Branwell also, of course, helped create Glass Town and its stories, but, in this book at least, Charlotte seems the most obsessed, the most unable to leave. There is some indication (biographically) that Anne, at least, moved on from their juvenile creations more easily than Emily or Charlotte, so this can make sense for the story. It also just makes sense to focus on Charlotte since she lived the longest and left us the most papers. Readers should just be aware that, though Glass Town appears to be a book about the Brontë siblings, it is really Charlotte’s book, the story of how she interacted with her siblings, was inspired them, and was devastated by her loss. In the end, she must decide if she has the willpower to move on without them.

Readers who love the Brontës and their writings will, of course, want to pick up a copy of Glass Town. Fans of graphic novels, however, will also enjoy the work, as will those who appreciate character-driven stories mixed with fantasy. A five-star read.

5 stars

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering HeightsInformation

Goodreads: Wuthering Heights
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1847

Official Summary

(From the Norton Critical Edition)

Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

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Review

I read Wuthering Heights once several years ago and couldn’t remember a thing about it except 1) there was a creepy scene with maybe Catherine’s ghost coming for the narrator, 2) it had weird framing, and 3) I hated it.  This isn’t much to go on when discussing the book, so I decided to reread it now that I’m older and wiser and all that.  The thing is: I still kind of hate the book.  The characters are selfish and cruel, and basically none of them are “likable” besides Nelly Dean, the storyteller (and maybe she’s biased).  But I also appreciate the book a lot more than I did.

I dislike framed narratives in general because I always feel as if the “real” story is the frame and then the main story is actually a digression that I am impatient to have finished up, so I can see why I struggled with the frame in Wuthering Heights.  It doesn’t seem particularly necessary, except readers can see Heathcliff, young Catherine, and Hareton through Lockwood’s more objective observations.  (Still unpleasant, largely).  The frame also kind of comes and goes, with Lockwood starting and stopping the story and even popping off to the city for a few months.  I don’t love it, but I can live with it.

The other oddity of the story is that it is in two parts.  A lot of today’s books have parts, including a lot of YA, but those parts also tend to seem arbitrary to me.  Here, I get it.  There are almost two separate stories, one about Heathcliff and his love Catherine, and one about the next generation.  It turns out that the brief things I did remember from my first reading of Wuthering Heights all came from Part I.  I was initially baffled at what was left to happen, but now I would almost say that Part II is the “real” story.  Sure, all of it’s important, but Part II is about Heathcliff’s concerted attempts at bringing low families he believes have wrong him, by meddling in the affairs of the younger generation.

Heathcliff, and his hate, really ties the story together to me.  I know people posit Wuthering Heights as a love story sometimes, but Heathcliff is a man obsessed more than anything.  He was obsessed with Cathering (did he love her?), and he’s obsessed with acquiring both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange because he knows the families would despise his ownership.  I found fascinating–and yet oddly one-dimensional in the way nineteenth century characters often are. I understand his current motivations, but there’s also the suggestion that he was just always bad, evil by nature.

I could go on; Wuthering Heights offers a lot to talk about.  But I will end by saying I don’t know if I can ever say I “enjoy” the book.  It’s fascinating because everyone in it is just so awful, and the stop of the characters’ passions loom so large, even when the action of the story is confined to only two English estates.  It’s a masterpiece, and I recommend reading it.  Don’t expect it to be “fun.”

4 stars Briana

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Information

Goodreads: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1848

Summary

The publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1848 shocked Victorian society with its unflinching depiction of the effects of alcoholism and adultery.  Charlotte, however, refused permission for its republication after her sister’s death, maintaining that the scenes of debauchery it contains did not reflect her sisters character.  Now, however, critics are reassessing Anne’s merits and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is lauded by many as a masterpiece and as a feminist novel–one in which a woman leaves her husband and supports herself as an artist in order to preserve her son from corruption.

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Review

“You may think it all very fine, Mr. Huntingdon, to amuse yourself with rousing my jealousy; but take care you don’t rouse my hate instead. And when you have once extinguished my love, you will find it no easy matter to kindle it again.”–Helen Huntingdon

It seems almost common knowledge that Emily and Charlotte Brontë are the talented siblings and Anne only famous due to her kinship with them.  (Indeed, the introduction to my copy of the book impressed readers with this very sentiment.  Its insulting evaluation of Anne’s work was so strong that one wonders if the writer meant to prevent readers from reading the story at all.)  However, upon finishing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I cannot help but suspect that Anne surpasses her sisters, at least in her boldness of vision.  Her story presents readers with a heroine who flees her alcoholic husband to save their son from his corrupting influence.   She is strong, she is independent, and she is outspoken.  She is hardly a model of Victorian femininity and propriety.

Although the story is framed by the letters of Gilbert Markham, Helen receives the opportunity to tell her own version of her marriage and its disintegration through her diary entries.  She begins as a naive young girl who dreams of marrying for love and imagines that her feminine influence can change her husband for the better.  Slowly, however, she comes to the realization that she has no hold over her husband at all.  She describes truly shocking scenes of his debasement, from the violence he and his friends inflict on guests at their home, to the adulterous affairs he carries on without feeling any scruples to hide his depravity from his friends or even his wife.  Through it all, Helen repeatedly tries to save him until, at last, she informs her husband that she is his housekeeper only.  And then, for her son’s sake, she finds the means to run away.

Anne is very much a realist here.  She does not shy away from depicting immorality and its effects, nor does she pretend that a woman’s love can change a man or save her from his abuse.  When Helen finds her life intolerable and her son’s soul in danger, Anne argues that Helen has the right to leave her husband behind.  And then she depicts a woman striving towards self-sufficiency as she sells her artwork to pay her debts and her rent.  Though Emily and Charlotte certainly wrote shocking works with independently-minded women, it is difficult to imagine them writing with quite the same audacity.

But, of course, there is still a moral lesson here.  There is the lesson that a woman cannot be too careful whom she marries: marrying for love is only a recipe for happiness if a man’s character and financial stability are also considered.  And there is the lesson for men that alcohol and other vices must be avoided if they are to maintain health, propriety, and domestic bliss.  The villains of the piece are suitably rewarded with death, degeneration, poverty, and loneliness.  The virtuous, even the reformed virtuous, are, in contrast, rewarded with happy homes.  Anne thus carries her argument that she does not depict vice for its shock value, but because she wishes readers to understand its true ugliness, and so avoid it.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a truly masterful work, one that gripped me with its suspense and drama, but one that also impressed me with the author’s daring.  I can imagine few other writers at the time daring to depict something such as an openly adulterous husband and present it to serious readers.  Yet Anne did.  And, when criticized for it, she replied with a spirited defense that impresses one immediately with her keen intellect, her self-assurance, and her courage.  Her early death is truly a great loss for English literature.

5 stars

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

Information

Goodreads: Agnes Grey
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 1847

Summary

Feeling that her family treats her like a child, Agnes Grey determines to make her own way in the world by becoming a governess.  However, her idealistic vision of molding the characters of children is quickly shattered.  In her positions, she is often denied authority and thwarted in her efforts to teach her charges virtue.  Additionally, she finds herself increasingly isolated as her position raises her above the servants but keeps her inferior to the families for whom she works.  Still, Agnes quietly perseveres in doing right.

Review

Anne Brontë tends to be overlooked when the works of her sisters are discussed.  In recent years, however, there have been attempts to revive her reputation, especially in reference to her work The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which shocked contemporary audiences with its depiction of a woman who leaves her alcoholic husband.  As critics begin to reexamine the feminist undertones of Anne’s works, undertones so far ahead of their time that even Charlotte refused to have Tenant republished, it seems fitting to return to Anne’s first novel, Agnes Grey.

In many ways, Agnes Grey seems a quiet and unassuming novel–and yet it made audiences uncomfortable in its own day.  The titular character begins work as a governess in two different wealthy households.  In the first, she is prevented from punishing the children and so cannot prevent their misbehavior.  In the second, she is instructed never to cross the wills of her charges, leading the eldest to become a shameless flirt  who delights in hurting men to cater to her vanity and the second to curse and run about in the stables with the male servants.  Rendered ineffective by the directions of her morally decadent social superiors, Anne becomes increasingly unhappy and struggles to remain patient, humble, and cheerful.

The novel does not only critique the morals of the wealthy families but also examines the unfeeling treatment of women who occupy a nebulous space in society.  As a governess, Agnes can neither become friends with the servants nor enter into intimate conversation with her families or their guests.  She becomes all but invisible and  mute, her small pleasures denied to her by those who have her at their mercy and her attempts to instill virtue in her charges silenced.  At night, she has only dreams of a certain upright Mr. Weston to console her–but Agnes can scarcely believe he would ever glance her way.

There is an undeniable sense that Anne Brontë writes of her own experiences in these pages, making the isolation, the heartbreak, and the impotency all feel keenly personal.  Well might her contemporaries have felt shamed, for she does not hold back in describing the callous carelessness of the upper classes in their pursuit of their own pleasures and vanities.  Women and social inferiors are simply casualties of the whims of their “betters.”  Brontë ‘s perceptiveness, her deft characterization, and her fearless social commentary all make Agnes Grey a remarkable read–one that should not be overshadowed by her sisters’ works.

5 stars

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne Valente

Information

Goodreads: The Glass Town Game
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: Sept. 2017

Summary

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë have spent countless hours imagining stories in the room at the top of the stairs.  Now, however, Charlotte and Emily must go off to school–where their two older sisters died from fever.  But just as it seems separation is inevitable, they find themselves in a magical world where the Duke of Wellington still fights Bonaparte.  Even stranger, the world seems to be the one they themselves have created and it is populated with their toys.  At first they imagine they can stay there forever.  But when Branwell and Anne are kidnapped, the siblings realize that this world may be out of their control.

Review

Catherynne Valente is one of my favorite authors.  She possesses a talent for creating whimsical worlds and for writing breath-taking prose.  For her to write a fantasy based on the juvenilia of the Brontë siblings is thus a dream come true.  And The Glass Town Game does not disappoint.  It takes readers to a magical land where toy soldiers come to life, words are surprisingly literal, and romance and danger intermingle.  Any fan of fantasy will be sure to enjoy it, but fans of the Brontës may also be surprised at how engrossing Glass Town can be.

A caveat before we begin: hardcore fans of the Brontës who feel that any imaginative work based on their lives and writings is a desecration will probably not be amused. The playfulness of a land where Brown Betsys are actual women, “Old Boney” is made of bones, and the Duke of Wellington rides a lion made of water may be lost on these individuals.  I delighted in the creativity and the oddity of it all–but if you’re looking for madwomen in the attic or a brooding Rochester, you may be disappointed.  This is first and foremost a fantasy–one with nods to the writings of the Brontës and one based on their lives–but still a fantasy.

But, oh, what a fantasy!  I wish I could return to Glass Town already!  It may be full of danger and death and deception, but it also has the handsome Duke of Wellington and the alluring Lord Byron.  Jane Austen, Marie Antoinette, and a host of other historical characters intermingle with women made of flowers and of metal, luggage that can come to life, and a potion that raises people from the dead.  The “real” and the fantastic coexist in the chummiest way.  It makes you believe in magic all over again.

And the Brontës are excellent guides through this new land.  You just have to fall in love with them, from the moment you learn about the stories they create and the way they wish they could bring back their dead sisters and avoid potentially sharing the same fate.  Glass Town is bizarre, but so, so much better than those terrible boarding schools!  But the Brontës do not really feel sorry for themselves.  Not for long.  They are brave and bold and daring–and maybe just dishonest enough to get themselves out of Glass Town alive.  Even Branwell, who typically comes off as annoying loser in these types of tales, is sympathetic.  He wants to be bold and bright.  He wants to be admired.  He just…isn’t.  He’s too self-absorbed to really be the type of man anyone could depend upon.

If you have already read Valente, you will not need my recommendation to read her again.  If you have not, you are missing out.  She is one of the best fantasy writers out there today, one whose prose is as magical as her worlds.  So whether you enjoy fantasy or Valente or the Brontës–pick up this book.

5 stars

TV Drama Review: To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters

Summary

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë secretly harbor dreams of publishing their stories.  However, writing, they have been told, is not the life for a woman.  Unfortunately, their brother Branwell is slowly descending into a life of degeneracy and madness, and their father is aging and blind.  Faced with the prospect of having to support themselves, the sisters hatch a plan to publish their work under pseudonyms.

Review

Based on Charlotte Brontë’s letters, To Walk Invisible highlights the struggles the Brontë sisters faced as women writing in nineteenth century England.  To publish would be, as Emily notes, to expose their characters–rather than their writing– for public judgment and scrutiny.  They realize that in order to be taken seriously, they must publish under male pseudonyms.  And thus begins two hours’ worth of dramatic whispering and sneaking about their own home.

Some of this sneaking about seems funnily obsessive considering the fact that their brother Branwell is often away or too drunk to be cognizant of anything happening around them and that their father Patrick never shows any desire to stifle his daughters’ creativity.  What exactly are they hiding and from whom?  Maybe the sisters fear one of their two servants will gossip?  At any rate, the show really works to play up the drama of the situation, perhaps realizing that it is difficult to make three sisters living in isolation on the moor a very action-packed story.

However, anyone willing to watch a two-hour drama on Masterpiece about the Brontë sisters is probably already invested in the work and will not need the high stakes to be so obviously emphasized.  The show does a nice job recognizing the fan base by bringing in some historical details and nods (such as Charlotte’s awkward future husband) and highlighting the personalities of the three sisters: wild Emily, level-headed Anne, and passionate Charlotte.  The effects of the moor on the sisters’ personalities (especially Emily’s) is also predictably emphasized through a series of long walks throughout, and some readings of Emily’s poetry are brought in at strategic moments.

Unfortunately, Branwell Brontë also makes an extended appearance, but he adds little to the story.  Brontë fans know of the sister’s hapless brother who died before he could fulfill all the great things expected of him.  He certainly has a place in the story of the sisters’ lives.   However, the sisters’ efforts at publication are far more compelling than Branwell’s debauchery.  No one expects Branwell to give up his drink, to become suddenly responsible, or to publish all the great works he says he will.  His wild lifestyle probably is meant to contrast with the sisters’ quiet lives and to add some more action to the story.  However, I don’t think many viewers are particularly interested in Branwell and it’s certainly difficult to be invested in him when it’s obvious from the start (from history or the drama) how he will end.

To Walk Invisible is a compelling story, but one that I suspect will mostly interest viewers who are already fans of the Brontë sisters, though it’s also possible that the drama will introduce new audiences to their works.  (Anne Brontë is, I would argue, still unfortunately overlooked in favor of her sisters.)   It’s an intimate glimpse at the lives of the Brontës full of fun historical nods that fans will love to spot.  I just wish we had seen far less of Branwell.

4 stars

Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

worlds-of-ink-and-shadowINFORMATION

Goodreads: Worlds of Ink and Shadow
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2016

SUMMARY

Charlotte and Branwell Brontë possess the secret of literally jumping into their imaginary world of Verdopolis, and their sister Emily is tired of being left behind.  Once all three of them, along with Anne, travelled there together as the all-powerful Genii, but now the elder Brontës keep that power to themselves.  Charlotte and Branwell, however, pay a price the others do not see.  Will the four of them ever be able to escape the mysterious hold that Verdopolis has on them?

Review

Worlds of Ink and Shadow works very well as a fantasy novel, but will probably appeal most readers who possess some knowledge both of the Brontës’ literary work and of their biographies.  Inspired by their juvenalia, full of references to their later works, and grounded in the tragedy of the sisters’ mistreatment at a boarding school, the book’s resonances fully come alive only for those who have the ability to catch all the references.  Even without them, however, the story is an engrossing and somewhat spooky read, the kind that will haunt readers as they devour it through the night.

Coakley expertly weaves biographical details of the Brontës’ lives into this fantasy, playing most with their juvenalia but also alluding to Branwell’s alcohol problem, the death of the elder Brontë sisters (Maria and Elizabeth), Emily’s penchant for wild things and dangerous men, and Charlotte’s dismal expectations as an impoverished woman.  I could easily imagine that much of this would make little sense to the uninitiated, especially because we do not now associate the Brontës with fantasy writing and Charotte Brontë receives most of the general populace’s attention.  However, it’s an incredibly fun read for people who love the Brontës, and it never seems stretched or far-fetched. Coakley seamlessly merges the fantastical with real life.

The fantastic side of this story is highly engrossing, featuring the Brontës jumping into the literary world of Verdopolis that they have created.  There the villain Alexander Rogue dissolutely drinks, kidnaps women, and duels with his rival, the heroic Zamorna–a perfect man if he were not such a womanizer.  But it takes much strength for the Brontës to continue to guide the story and at times it seems that the characters might be breaking free.  Might even suspect that they are being played with like puppets.  And soon the world the Brontës thought of as their own threatens to turn on them.

So whether you enjoy the writings of the Brontë sisters or a good fantasy or a good historical fantasy, this may just be the book for you.  It feels fresh and original, avoiding the usual tropes of YA to focus instead on the power of stories and the bonds between siblings.  Hopefully we’ll see much more of Coakley’s work.

5 starsKrysta 64

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Guest Post by Kate)

Classic Literature Event

This July Pages Unbound is celebrating classic literature with a collection of guest posts. We asked other readers to tell us what one of their favorite classics is and why we should read it.

Kate is a lover of dark chocolate, Harry Potter, Les Miserables, and Queen.  Visit her at Read and Dream.


Jane Eyre

“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Starting about a year ago, I have made it a priority to start reading more classics. I have read masterpieces starting from A Tale of Two Cities to Things Fall Apart,each one contributing something new to my perspective of the world. Yet, only one stands out in my mind as my ultimate favorite: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

It is insightful, thrilling and revolutionizing. Here is why I treasure this book so dearly.

1. Jane herself.

She grows up with no true family, with no wealth, with not much to go off of in her life. Her aunt and cousins bully her, and when she resists she is thrown in a boarding school where she is humiliated and malnourished. Yet she finds strength. What I really adore about Jane Eyre is her observance of others. She pays attention to everything, even the littlest details that showcase themselves in people’s eyes. The book was written in first person (rare for a classic) and I believe there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from this because she is so delicate and definite with her imagery and descriptions of emotion.

2. What is says about women.

She is often in awe and admiration of the resolve, passion, and fierceness of another character, but she doesn’t seem to know that she possesses all those qualities herself. She makes her own decision to become a governess, and believes most strongly in the power of conscience and judgement, even when it comes in the face of one of the strongest love stories ever to be written. I believe that this is truly a recollection of what it is to be a woman. Jane is not extraordinary, she is not beautiful, and is often submissive. However, throughout her life she is the picture of independence.

3. The depiction of love as something dark and complex, yet beautiful.

Jane and Mr. Rochester’s love is in one word passionate. There are circumstances that stand in their way, and each of them are so whole and complete on their own. However, they perfectly complement each other and it really shows the test of separation and other unfortunate complexities of love. Bronte’s writing, through Jane’s point of view (first person), is incredibly vivid and shows the intricacies of passion beautifully.

I hope that all of you get the chance to read this book!

“I am not an angel,” I asserted; “and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.”

Thanks for having me, Krysta!

5 Reasons to Read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Guest Post by Amy McCaw)

Classic Literature Event

This July Pages Unbound is celebrating classic literature with a collection of guest posts. We asked other readers to tell us what one of their favorite classics is and why we should read it.

Amy McCaw is a blogger at YA Under My Skin, who is almost as enthusiastic about classics as YA books. (@yaundermyskin)


Wildfell Hall (1)

There’s a lot of love out there for Charlotte and Emily Brontë and for good reason. I’ve read most of their books and they’re consistently brilliant. I’m not here to discuss the two best known Brontës. When I was at university, I first read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, and it soon became one of my favourite classics. I hope by the end of this post that I can convince you to pick up a copy!

These are the reasons why I love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:

1. The plot

A mysterious widow, Helen Graham, arrives at the rundown Wildfell Hall and attracts the attention of Gilbert Markham and the whole of their small community. This is not just another classic about a young girl who is swept away by a sulking scoundrel (although there are plenty in the book if you like that sort of thing).

2. The narrator

I loved the fact that this was from Gilbert’s point of view because you got to unravel the mystery of Mrs. Graham along with him! He’s a very endearing but flawed character quite different from the aforementioned rogues.

3. The format

The narrative unfolds as a sequence of letters and diary entries written by Gilbert and Helen, enabling the reader to piece the events together from the different character’s viewpoints.

4. Helen and Feminism

Obviously there wasn’t a lot of room to be a feminist at the time but Helen definitely tries! She encourages her young friend Ester not to marry for money and herself is determined to marry for love.

5. The setting

The Brontes lived in the beautiful Yorkshire village of Haworth (where you can still visit their Parsonage Home!) This book strongly evokes the wild and gorgeous landscape of the Yorkshire Moors.

A photo I took in Haworth August 2015

A photo I took in Haworth August 2015

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a fabulous classic and Anne Brontë deserves to be as well-known as her sisters.