The Bronte sisters are some of my favorite writers EVER, but I had never read anything by Anne until this reading of Agnes Grey. It’s my first Classics Club read of 2013 and a superb way to begin my classics reading list for this year.
Agnes is a young women born into a family of good standing, but lack of money. Her mother was once a Lady, but married out of love instead of proper social climbing etiquette. When her family’s monetary situation begins to worsen and her father’s health to decline, Agnes goes in search of governess positions to save her family or at least make their lives a little easier. She’s met with spoiled children and a solitary life until she meets a clergyman she can’t stop thinking about!
Anne’s writing, at least in my opinion, is the perfect combination of both Emily and Charlotte. Her prose is perhaps more simplistic (like Emily’s) and straightforward, while her subject matter mirrors Charlotte’s a great deal. Once you’ve taken the supernatural, spooky undertones of Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre out of the equation, you’re left with a lovely story of a young woman’s coming-of-age, some social commentary, and the common marriage plot.
There’s nothing overly complex about Agnes Grey with the entire plot and characterizations being grounded in realism and concision, but Agnes was a joy to meet among the pages. Her descriptions of the wild heathen children she taught were bitterly humorous at times and the sense of her own loneliness was often heartbreaking. Many readers criticize Agnes’s ‘goody-goody perfection’ and believe that she lacks development. I tend not to agree – I love her struggling with her affections and attractions for the first time, her often unpleasant thoughts and emotions towards her pupils, and can see her underlying struggle to remain the upright and moral woman her parents have raised her to be.
If you’re new to Victoria literature, Anne Bronte would be a superb introduction to her more flowery sisters and other writers of the time. The story is short and sweet and offers a gentle first glimpse of mid-nineteenth century England. Anne is a protagonist that we’d all like to be friends with and who we root for against the nasty little sprites that only hope to see her fail!
I wish Anne had lived much longer (she died at 29) because as a writer she could only have grown more focused, mature, and amazing. She and her sisters are very deserving of your attention and I’m so very close to having read all their novels! Add them to your classics list if you haven’t already!