Kim's Reviews > Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
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's review
Mar 28, 2012

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bookshelves: audiobook, mt-tbr-challenge
Read from March 28 to April 03, 2012

Agnes Grey is the first of two novels written by the youngest of the Bronte sisters. A number of aspects of the life of Anne Bronte, who died from tuberculosis at the age of 29, are reflected in the plot. The eponymous heroine is the daughter of a clergyman who loses his independent income, as a result of which she elects to work as a governess. Written in the form of a memoir, the first person narrative sets out Agnes' experiences working for two families, meeting and falling in love with a clergyman and setting up a school with her mother.

For me, part of what makes the novel interesting is knowing that in depicting Agnes’ life as a governess, Bronte drew heavily on her own experiences in the same role. Compared to Jane Eyre’s life as a governess, Agnes’ life is extraordinarily mundane. There is nothing romantic about Bronte’s portrayal of that life. Indeed, while the novel contains a love story, there is nothing of the romantic in it at all, and certainly nothing of the gothic. When Agnes falls in love, her sentiments are conventional. There are no souls yearning for each other across the moors and while Agnes’ love interest is no St John Rivers, he has nothing in common with Edward Rochester. Further, although there are some very beautiful descriptions of nature – particularly in the latter part of the novel – nature does not play the part it does in the works of Anne Bronte’s sisters.

In my view, the book’s major weakness is the relative lack of development in Agnes’ character. Jane Eyre is defined and changed by her experiences. However, while Agnes undergoes some very difficult experiences working as a governess, the Agnes at the end of the novel is more or less the same as the Agnes at the beginning of the novel. Agnes acknowledges that her youth and inexperience contributed to some of the difficulties she faced. However, she never questions herself and never doubts that she’s right. I like Agnes, but if I wanted to be harsh I might describe her as a bit of a prig.

I listened to an audiobook edition of the novel, very capably narrated by English actress Emilia Fox. I’m glad to have done so and I’m looking forward to listening to Anne Bronte’s other novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s part of a vague plan to read / re-read all of the Bronte sisters’ novels including, one of these days, Wuthering Heights, for which I have long cherished a deep dislike.

I rate this at 3-1/2 stars. It doesn't have the complexity of Jane Eyre, but it's still a pretty good read.

I’ll finish the review with the words Anne Bronte used to finish Agnes Grey. It's hard to think of a simpler conclusion.

“And now I think I have said sufficient”.
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Quotes Kim Liked

Anne Brontë
“The ties that bind us to life are tougher than you imagine, or than any one can who has not felt how roughly they may be pulled without breaking.”
Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey

Reading Progress


Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Petra Eggs I read this last month. I think I would give it 3.5 stars as well (I rounded up, you rounded down).

message 2: by Jemidar (new) - added it

Jemidar I think out of all the Bronte's I'm most interested in reading Anne. Can we add The Tenant to our pile as I've been meaning to get to it for ages but never have.

Misfit I don't recall much about this one, I enjoyed it but a bit forgettable at the same time. I'd love to hear what you ladies think about Tenant. Female writer, doing male first person POV. There is one scene towards the end that really had me chuckling.

message 4: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Petra X wrote: "I read this last month. I think I would give it 3.5 stars as well (I rounded up, you rounded down)."

I initially gave it four stars, but I gave four stars to Villette, which I think I liked a bit better. 3.5 seems about right, but then I'm not at all rigorous with star ratings.

message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Jemidar wrote: "I think out of all the Bronte's I'm most interested in reading Anne. Can we add The Tenant to our pile as I've been meaning to get to it for ages but never have."

Sure. I will add to the pile.

message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Abigail wrote: "I knew there was a reason we got on so well! ;)"

Kindred spirits!

message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Simran wrote: "Although its hard to tell if it was the book itself, or my bore of a teacher that left that particular impression."

Nah, it was probably the book. I had an amazing teacher and I still didn't like it. But one of these days - maybe this year, but maybe not - I'm going to give it another go.

Gary  the Bookworm The first time I read Wuthering Heights I also disliked it but I reread a few years later and fell in love. I even like all the movies-especially the Hollywood classic. Where I hear the openning music I start to choke up!

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