A love story to make you smile. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Agnes Grey and although it was somewhat predictable, I felt it was well written and worthy of its place in the Brontë compendium. (Not the right word, someone help me!)
Reading Agnes Grey has even inspired me to follow it up with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne’s second novel. Agnes Grey counts for both my Mount TBR Challenge (13 of 25 – 52%) and The Classics Club (3 of 85 – 4%).
Let’s start with the end. I rarely leave the last line of a novel uncovered because it might hint at something, but this one doesn’t reveal anything and it was so finite that it just made me laugh and truly appreciate the way in which Anne Brontë wrote the novel.
“And now I think I have said sufficient.”
The finiteness of this line is perfect. It doesn’t allow for conversation or for interpretation – it says what it means and closes the novel succinctly. I feel as if I should close all of my email sand blog posts with said line, as it’s so cheeky and yet, somewhat humorously, sufficient.
Whereas both Emily and Charlotte Brontë wrote novels that were somewhat disturbing and (to me) more traumatic in experience, especially Wuthering Heights, Anne’s first novel glosses over the bad experience and constantly looks forward to the lovely future to come, even though it is after the novel’s end. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post as I’ll talk about this observation and my thoughts on the brief research I’ve done.
However, like Emily and Charlotte, Anne has created characters that are simultaneously frustrating and endearing. Perhaps not as iconic or as long-lasting as Heathcliff and Catherine or Jane and Mr. Rochester, but I still spent most of the novel wanting to shake Miss Grey and say – GO GET YOUR MAN and don’t let those fool Murray’s rule your desires and behavior! And I wanted to tell her that she clearly was an intelligent woman and sod-all to her employers – take those kids and teach them how to behave like gentlemen and ladies.
What I truly enjoyed about this novel was that you didn’t have to work to understand it or to experience it. It didn’t require as much cognitive effort and the language was simple and easy to read (which is apparently a detraction of the novel). It also helped that there was a happy romantic ending that made me smile and appreciate the minor troubles Miss Grey faced on her journey to happiness. The only drawback to the novel was the religious proselytizing, which wasn’t overwhelming at all, just a bit tiresome. But what it did do was show truly how autobiographical parts of this novel were from Anne’s own experience as a governess and growing up with her father, a curate of a local parish.
Opening Line: “All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut.”
Closing Line: “And now I think I have said sufficient.”
“The ties that bind us to life are tougher than you imagine, or than anyone can who has not felt how roughly they may be pulled without breaking. You might be miserable without a home, but even you could live; and not so miserably as you suppose. The human heart is like india-rubber; a little swells it, but a great deal will not burst.” (Loc. 1401)
“It is foolish to wish for beauty. Sensible people never either desire it for themselves or care about it in others. If the mind be but well cultivated, and the heart well disposed, no one ever cares for the exterior.” (Loc. 1777)
“Alas! how far the promise of anticipation exceeds the pleasure of possession!” (Loc. 2230)