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.  


The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall

This is the first time I read a book by Anne Brontë. I’ve enjoyed the works of her sisters, so I had high expectations for this one. And it did not disappoint, on the contrary, I didn’t expect to like it this much. The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall follows the story of Gilbert Markham, who becomes fascinated by Helen Graham, a beautiful and mysterious woman who has just moved into Wildfell Hall. He quickly becomes her friend and is the first to refute local gossip that questions her character and behavior. However, he soon has reasons to regret his infatuation, and doubts begin to arise in his mind. Only when Helen gives Gilbert her diary and tells him to read it, he finally learns the shocking truth about her life.

It’s not a really love story (even though we see how Gilbert and Helen fall in love with each other, it’s not the focus of the novel). The story is rather about detrimental love that explores the role of women in marriage and how they were expected to act in certain ways due to the standards of society. Except that the heroine, Helen, is unwilling to tolerate negligence and takes action on her own.

Bear in mind that it was published in 1848, receiving negative reviews for the realistic way of depicting controversial topics such as alcoholism, psychological abuse and adultery. Anne was bold for addressing these issues and placing the main character at a crossroad.

I liked the epistolary format, as the events are described through Gilbert’s letters and Helen’s diary. Both of the characters were easy to empathize with. What surprised me was that some parts of the plot were actually fast-paced for a classic novel, since most classics are generally character driven.

Anne’s writing style was remarkable, I think she’s now my favorite Brontë sister. However, I was expecting the end to be a bit different. It felt that part could either been shorter or focused more on the relationship between Gilbert and Helen. Besides that, it’s a must-read! Specially if you’ve enjoyed Jane Eyre and/or Wuthering Heights.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

“Smiles and tears are so alike with me, they are neither of them confined to any particular feelings: I often cry when I am happy, and smile when I am sad.”

Anne Brontë, The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall