Friday, 1 February 2013

'Agnes Grey' by Anne Bronte (1847)

Synopsis: Agnes Grey is a semi-autobiographical tale that draws upon Anne Bronte's own experiences as a governess. The heroine, Agnes, decides to become a governess so she can save some money up for her family who are struggling financially. Agnes works for two different families in the book. The first family that she works for are the Bloomfields whose children are spoilt brats, completely unmanageable, and serial killers in the making. The second family that she works for, the Murrays, aren't quite as abusive but the daughters are selfish and manipulative and Agnes's situation isn't that much better than before. One of the few people who is at all kind and considerate towards Agnes is the local curate Mr Weston.

I was very keen to read this book after reading Anne Bronte's other novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I think that book is criminally underrated. Agnes Grey is a very different novel though as I soon discovered. It's a very short novel, at just under 200 pages, and the plot is much more simple and straightforward. It's also very predictable and because of that the book is a disappointment. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and the other great Bronte novels Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are all much better. They're so much more dramatic and suspenseful. Agnes Grey is a more realistic account of a 19th century governess's life than Jane Eyre though, and I did have quite a lot of sympathy for Agnes for being expected to discipline children without actually being allowed to punish them. The plot is simple but enjoyable and I did like the happy ending. Anne's talent as a writer is much more obvious in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall but this is is still worth a read.

Rating: 3/5

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