Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Classic Lit: Agnes Grey by Charlotte Bronte
Date: 1847 (2010)
Read: for my own enjoyment
Reading time: four days
From the back cover: Based on Anne Bronte's own experience as a struggling governess, Agnes's story paints a realistic picture of an intelligent, sensitive young woman who endures months of isolation and frustration in a household that is not her home. But despite the unkindness, and sometimes even malice, to which she is subjected, Agnes' abiding principles of tolerance and compassion help her to triumph against the odds.
My review: I think Agnes Grey would serve as a good introduction to the Bronte sisters's novels for someone who is a bit timid in tackling one of their lengthier books. It has their characteristic, 19th-century style where there's a bit of a unifying plot, but mostly the storyline just meanders through the central character's life. At under 200 pages, though, it's certainly the shortest of the sisters's major works.
I happen to like the basically plotless 19th-century novels, and so, in that regard, I enjoyed Agnes Grey as much as any other Bronte novel. I found Agnes to be an annoying character, however. Unlike Charlotte's heroines (Villette is one of my favorite books), I couldn't identify much with her. She seemed too self-righteous and whiny. She was also irritatingly avoidant of taking any action, and not because, like Lucy Snowe, she was being all rational about the situation. No, she was just weak-willed and preferred to quote moral sentiments at other people. Considering Agnes Grey is drawn from Anne's own experiences, I'm guessing I wouldn't have wanted Anne as a governess, either.