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review 2017-05-28 00:00
Agnes Grey
Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë Countering all of the romanticism of the position popularized by her sister, and showing the quiet humiliation faced by the marginalized figures in other works, Agnes Grey reveals the true lot of the governess. Agnes is a bright woman who is eager to do her part to support her family after they fall upon hard times. Her nervous optimism is soon shattered when she accepts her first position.

The novel was pulled from Bronte's own experiences as a governess and the book reads like someone relieved to open up. There's nothing like coming home from a bad day at work and saying "you'll never believe what happened this time...". A governess lives in her employer's house, as servants did, but as an acknowledged gentlewoman she also could not form bonds with other household staff. It was a lonely position, and a difficult one if your authority is limited to the boundaries that Agnes' employers gave her. There would have been no opportunity to decompress or garner sympathy from a friend except through letters - and it becomes clear that Agnes is not the sort of woman who would allow herself that kind of luxury.

Her charges are cruel, little monsters - children - or spoiled and inattentive. She is expected to correct faults and educate, but without inconveniencing them in any way. The contradictions, the hypocrisy, and again and again, the isolation and lack of understanding are insurmountable obstacles. Her only outlet to us, her readers, is a modern one: sarcasm. Agnes' sarcasm and irony nicely offset her faith and lovelorn denials. My impression is that Agnes found strength in her religion, but sanity in pointing out the often bizarre behavior and expectations of her employers and their families. As bleak as her situation can be, there are smiles and I could see the long suffering Agnes rolling her eyes behind her mistresses' back after yet another contradictory order.

Agnes Grey deals with grim realities which is a refreshing antidote to my other Victorian reading proclivities. Of her two novels this one feels superior for its simpler structure and the success of Agnes as a character who faces stern tests of character, shouts down doubts about herself, and persists.
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review 2017-04-30 23:40
Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë

I really enjoyed this book.

Similar in style to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, the book tells of Agnes Grey's journey into adulthood, specifically her struggles as a governess.

Beautifully-written, this book was a very good read. I really enjoyed Bronte's imagery.

It is heavy on the religious tones, but not in a preachy way, which didn't bother me. Agnes uses her religion to care for others, human and animal, which made her a very likeable character, despite her tendency to go on and on about God.

Light on the romance, which was also agreeable to me.

Listening to it as an audiobook made it even better; Emilia Fox did very well with the narration and intonation.

A good read with a satisfying ending.

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review 2016-12-18 05:50
Agnes Grey, Anne Bronte
Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë

This is Anne's first novel and it's a lesser work than the subsequent Tenant of Wildfell Hall but it shows some similarities; it is most powerful when tackling social issues of autobiographical concern to the author; the protagonist is a bit self-righteous; it never suffers the dullness that afflicts the lesser parts of Jane Eyre; it never tilts over into the almost insane hysterical passion of Wuthering Heights.

 

It seems fairly obvious that Anne wanted to tackle the plight of poorly treated governesses and bolted a very conventional and largely uninspired romance on the end in order to make it a novel. This romance section in itself serves more to act as a warning about the potential fate of people who marry merely for money or social status than to provide any satisfying against-the-odds meeting of soul-mates; the outcome is dictated by convenient chance. I note that as with other Bronte novels, the protagonist wishes to be appreciated for her moral, educational and intellectual capacities and achievements. This was clearly what was valued by the Brontes and what they wanted to be esteemed for having.

 

I found the book never tedious, being short in length and brisk enough, unlike Jane Eyre which bogs down frequently, but the early parts, loaded with the protagonist's early experiences away from home before romance enters the picture are surprisingly the most memorable. It would seem governesses were frequently treated badly by both parents and pupils and, being isolated from their previous "support network" as well as usually young and inexperienced, they often suffered greatly. It is obvious that Anne is speaking from experience in these passages and they act as a precursor to the later and greater similarly autobiographically informed sections of Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which remains by far the stand-out Bronte novel I've read.

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text 2016-12-16 01:36
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 248 pages.
Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë

I'm having a bit of Century Shock, this book being circa 150 years older than the previous one I read...

 

Master Tom seems to be an extremely unpleasant character!

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text 2016-12-15 12:10
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 248 pages.
Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë

When I decided it was overdue time to give Austen and the Brontes a fair chance as an adult, I thought the thing to do would be to buy one book by each of them; this is the last of them, following Pride and Prejudice, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Jane Eyre.

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