Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Classic Tale by a lesser known Bronte

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte was first published in 1848. Let me just preface my review by saying, "Thank GOD, I didn't live back then!" The story is told by Gilbert Markham through a series of letters to his friend Halford and by journal entries of the mysterious and devout Mrs. Helen Graham. A recent widow, Mrs. Graham and her young son are the new tenants of Wildfell Hall, a dilapidated estate owned by Frederick Laurence. The air of mystery that surrounds Mrs. Graham is certainly fodder for the townsfolk. She is quiet, reserved and not very inviting to most of her neighbors. Wildfell Hall only has a few rooms that are in livable condition. And she has a strange attachment to her son, Arthur. She is never separated from him.

As the days go by, Gilbert finds that he is undeniably attracted to Mrs. Graham. But he is very disheartened to find that rumors are now being circulated around town about Mrs. Graham and Frederick, a man that Gilbert has always considered a friend. It is also very clear to him that Helen is shutting him down at ever effort to get to know her, especially regarding her past.

Eventually, Helen is unable to deny her feelings for Gilbert and gives him her diary. This action is her one chance for him to understand who she really is and dispel the rumors that the townsfolk have come to believe. The diary is Helen's account of her life before she moved into the rooms at Wildfell Hall, but most specifically, it is about her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon, a very charming man that had few, if any, scruples.

At first I had a hard time getting into this book. I found the characters all rather unlikable and rather annoying. The townsfolk were always in everyone's business. Gilbert was rather insensitive and kind of bully, when you come right down to it. And Helen spent most of the book playing a martyr by saying it was "God's Will". I do realize that it was different times, and a woman's rights were very few. This is the main reason I overlooked my annoyance and continued reading. In the end, I found that I really enjoyed the story. Bronte wrote this book at a time when women were less than citizens and brought forth a whole host of probably very controversial topics for that time: alcoholism, infidelity, and women's rights to name just a few. I think Anne Bronte was very much ahead of her time. 4/5

3 comments:

Literary Feline said...

Thank you for the great review, Stephanie. I loved Jane Eyre and liked Wuthering Heights. I've always been curious about Anne and am so glad you enjoyed her book. I hope to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall one of these days.

Chris said...

I read that a few years ago. It was a good read. Glad you liked it.

booklogged said...

Nice review, Stephanie. I haven't read this one yet, but if I live long enough. . .