Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Classic Lit: Agnes Grey by Charlotte Bronte

Publisher: Arcturus Publishing
Date: 1847 (2010)
Format: paperback
Source: purchased
Read: for my own enjoyment
Pages: 189
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.


  1. Hmm, I didn't find Agnes weak-willed, I read it as she had been stripped of power by the parents of the children she was governing. When she tried to discipline, she was told off for being too harsh and when she left discipline to the parents, she was told off for being too lax.

    I do have a soft spot for this book though, I'm a teacher and could relate to much of Agnes' experiences.

    1. I saw it both ways. With the children, she didn't really have much choice. But in other situations - like with some of the things she said while falling in love with the curate - she seemed too content to do absolutely nothing.

  2. I'm glad to know this is a good place to start while reading Bronte. I haven't heard of this one and it sounds interesting.