Review: Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey was Anne Brontë’s debut novel, an autobiographical coming-of-age story.

The protagonist is Agnes, the daughter of a minister who decides to become a governess in order to help her family financially. The families she encounters are not how she imagined. She finds herself surrounded by hostile environments and obnoxiously misbehaved children, causing her to feel disqualified and isolated.  

It was an easy and quick read. I admired Agnes’ positive attitude throughout the hardships she endures, always focusing on the glass half-full and finally getting the happy ending she deserved. 

However, I still enjoyed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall much more, which was Anne’s second and last novel. In it, her writing was bolder, and her chosen themes were ahead of her time. Agnes Grey, on the other hand, felt more mellow and predictable.

While she is the least popular Brontë sister, she has become my favorite. If you like classic literature, do yourself a favor and pick one of her books.  


Review: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half is a historical fiction novel that begins with Desiree and Stella, twins from a small African American community in Louisiana, that decide to run away to New Orleans at the age of 16. They were searching for a new life in the hopes of a better and brighter future. But once in the city, they drift apart drastically. The book follows their lives across generations, their lives surprisingly intertwining decades later. 

I prefer omitting details and avoiding any spoilers. It’s the type of book that the less you know, the better your reading experience will be.

It’s a character-driven novel that discusses family relationships and racial identities, with each twin demonstrating their values and beliefs very differently.

This has been one of my favorite reads of the year. I gave it five stars because it got me hooked from the very start. It was well-written, I liked the way the author approached complex topics and the plot was engaging until the end. This book definitely deserves more attention on bookstgram.

¨The key to staying lost was to never love anything.¨

Britt Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Review: Verity

Even though this isn’t one of her most popular books, I’m starting to see why Colleen Hoover is so hyped. I finished Verity in less than a week, something so rare in me lately. It’s the type of book that kept me up at night because I wanted to read just “one more chapter”.

The plot was engaging, and the twist at the end was something I was definitely not expecting. While it’s considered a thriller, there’s also romance, providing the story with some equilibrium and making it less dark compared to other thrillers.

I’ve rated this book 4 stars because it was entertaining, but I feel that’s the only adjective to describe it overall. The story lacked depth, I would’ve liked to know more about Verity’s background. The turn of events happened too fast to make it believable. And the writing style…I have no problem with the first-person POV, but it sometimes felt like a YA novel that covered disturbing topics. But it felt good to come across a book that got me out of a reading slump.

Will I read more Colleen Hoover books? Yes, mostly out of curiosity.

Review: Florida

I would like to write a witty and profound review for this collection, but I’ll just keep it concise instead. Like most short stories, they leave you wanting more just when you’re finally settling in with the characters and the plot.

Most of these stories take place in Florida, exploring the obscurity hidden in its nature. As someone who has previously lived in Florida, I felt I was revisiting the sunshine state with all the detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna, and its distinguishing humidity.

The primary theme here was motherhood, but from a rather unconventional perspective, focusing on bleakness and distress. Some stories were engaging and memorable, while others were hard to follow.

Lauren Groff’s writing was a brushstroke that made these disturbing narrations worthy of underlining and annotations. I definitely can’t wait to read more by the author.

“The truth is, Meg had said, back when she was still a best friend, you love humanity almost too much, but people always disappoint you.”

Lauren Groff, Florida

Review: Dominicana

Set in the 1960s, Ana is a 15-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic growing up in poverty, who is forced to marry Juan, a man twice her age, and move to NYC. Her parents, particularly her mom, are blinded by the hope of being able to migrate to the U.S., and Ana seems to be their only way out. In turn, she sacrifices her adolescence for the sake of helping her family. Juan promises to take care of their daughter, and everyone believes him.

Young and naive, Ana thinks her life in NYC will be perfect. But her marriage soon becomes unsettling. He’s unfaithful, violent, and manipulating. Dominicana is a moving and heartbreaking coming-of-age story, discussing topics on immigration, love, and family. It portrays the hardships first-generation immigrants experience before adapting to a new culture. It’s also a story about women standing up for themselves amid a misogynist society.

I did not expect to be so captivated by this book. Ana felt like a little sister I’d wished to guide and advise, give her a hug and tell her things will get better. Because they do, everything always passes.

Overall rating: 4/5

“Don’t forget about us. No lights are too bright to forget where you come from. Remember. Remember.”

Angie Cruz, Dominicana

Review: A Room Of One’s Own

First published in 1929, “A Room Of One’s Own” is an extended essay based on two lectures that Woolf did a year before. Here she explores the role of women in literature throughout time until the present (or her present rather). Despite this text being nearly a century old, it’s still relevant today.

Woolf argues how literature has been predominantly a male territory. Women didn’t have access to education in previous centuries, and even those who did try to write were often criticized and minimized by their male counterparts. It’s interesting how she mentions that the topics considered important were war and sports —activities only allowed for men. Yet topics regarding domestic living and dresses were categorized under “trivial”. But how were women supposed to write about war and sports when their day-to-day life consisted of other activities?

In sum, she concludes that for a woman to write a novel, she must have a room of one’s own (space and privacy) and earn 500 pounds per year (which today would be approximately 30,000£).

Despite presenting a difficult scenario for her fellow listeners back then —and probably still difficult for her readers now—, she still encourages them to write. And not only to write as a “woman” but as a person. A whole person, embracing both the feminine and masculine parts of our minds.

When Virginia Woolf wrote this, though women had gained more rights, there was still a long process ahead. If only she could still be alive and see all the women writers that have received prizes, and how many have become best-sellers. I believe she’d be surprised and proud of how literature has become more accessible now — for both readers and writers.

“Literature is open to everybody. Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind”.

Virginia Woolf, A Room Of One’s Own