Title: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Author: Anne Bronte
Genre: fiction (classic)
Length: 456 pages
Year Published: 1848
Source: personal collection
Challenges/Resolutions: Victorian Lit Challenge; Personal Collection Resolution; Years of Books Goal
Reason for Reading: First, and foremost, I read this to discuss on the Rory’s Book Club discussion forum, located here. But I also was interested in reading something by Anne Bronte because I have already read books by Charlotte and Emily, her sisters (Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, respectively). So, now I have read one of each Bronte :) It just also happened to fit into my Victorian Lit Challenge and Years of Books Goal.
Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young woman who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of the disastrous marriage she has left behind emerge.
My Thoughts: Overall, I found this book to be quite intriguing. There were certainly many questions I wanted answered throughout the book. However, when those questions were answered, the story was left sort of lacking for interest. The apex of the story, when we finally find out where Mrs. Graham came from and why (and also a little later how Mr. Lawrence is involved in all of this), comes later in the novel and I wasn’t as interested in the story afterwards. But there were a few twists and turns Bronte included that brought back my interest by bits–a sick man and a marriage, to give an idea but not ruin the story. Although, I have to admit that I’ve been reading the Hunger Games series and watching The Tudors on DVD, so that might be why I was distracted when I should’ve been reading :(
Regardless of the slight lapse of interest towards the end, I think I have to say that I liked this book more than Wuthering Heights which I liked better than Jane Eyre. Oddly enough, I read them starting with my least favorite–liking each one more as I go along. However I think this may be due to my maturity also growing and, therefore, finding better solace in the books the later I read them. This was my first Anne Bronte. But I love that the sisters wrote in such different ways. Their villains and disastrous situations are all different, and I’m glad that no one of them fell into the style of her sisters.
I noticed at the end of this novel that the narrator was a man. Yes, of course I realized at the beginning that Gilbert is a man’s name and therefore that he is a man :) But much of the story was composed of Mrs. Graham’s diary, therefore being narrated by a woman. And I wonder at the fact that these two separate parts of the book weren’t very different. In today’s world I think that there are distinctive behaviors attributed to the different sexes (at least in general), but both the narrations from Mrs. Graham’s diary and Gilbert’s letter are very similar. Which leads to something else: I don’t think that I’ve ever read of a man’s feelings of love for a woman from his own perspective. And definitely not written by a woman author. I wonder if Bronte had any difficulty writing from a man’s perspective? Austen, whose writing is closest in time to the Brontes that I’ve ever read, did not write from the male perspective, but rather the male perspective as interpreted by the female character.
“…it is never too late to reform, as long as you have the sense to desire it, and the strength to execute your purpose.”
p347, Helen to Mr. Hattersley
“Increase of love brings increase of happiness.”
My Thoughts on the Cover: I happen to love the cover of my edition, which, believe it or not, is rather hard to find a decent sized image of on the internet. Nevertheless, I have the Barnes & Noble edition. I think the cover image is a perfect representation of the character of Mrs. Graham.