K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
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May 09, 12

bookshelves: 1001-core, drama, family-drama, love-story, romance, feminist
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Read from April 21 to May 09, 2012, read count: 1

The tenant that is being referred to in the title of this book, The Tenant of the Wildfell Hall is not actually a tenant. She owns the place being the child of the owner. She is born there and only comes back because she is running away from her alcoholic husband. The husband is slowly introducing alcohol to their 5-y/o child and so she bangs the door to her husband’s face, runs away to her former home, the estate called Wildfell under a fictitious name. The act of a married woman running away from her husband especially with her child is against the prevailing law in England called “Married Women Property Act in 1870” that says: a wife has no independent legal existence. She cannot get separated from his husband, she cannot vote, she cannot decide alone for his kids, among others.

Anne Bronte, the youngest of the gifted Bronte sisters has the above for her storyline. It is a huge departure from Jane Eyre’s fight to be happy or Catherine Earnshaw’s defiance to against his father and brother. Bronte’s Helen Lawrence Huntingdon, a.k.a., Helen Graham, defies law and she does not give damn about it. Many English readers raised their eyebrows and others said that this was not as good as Anne Bronte's sister's (or brother because they were using male pseudonyms) Jane Eyre. However, I believe that the reason Charlotte Bronte did not want this book re-published a year after Anne Bronte died was that Charlotte was jealous.

In terms of characters, this book has a lot more than Jane Eyre and there are many sub-plots too. The main theme (the evil of alcohol abuse) is also more mature and seemed to be something that was close to the Bronte sister had since their loved one, their brother, Branwell Bronte succumbed to this vice and was the main reason for his early demise: he drank himself to death. The fight for independence that was equated to happiness during that Victorian times was pursued by Helen Graham as strong as how Jane Eyre fought for her Rochester and Anne Bronte (just like Charlotte Bronte) made sure that her plot would end up having the rightful lovers in each others' arms in the end. So, for romance lovers, this book does not disappoint.

There are also many other similarities between the two: falling from the horse, rich uncle leaving his property to his niece making the niece very rich in the end, weak male characters, protagonist taking care of the sick villain and granting forgiveness, former wrong lover dying in the end for the heroine to marry the right guy, etc. I understand that those were basic ingredients of Victorian novels and the readers then look for those in the romance novels that they read. I just thought that those many similarities are too much of a coincidence so I was less amused now compared to when I read Jane Eyre last month.

For the same reason, I thought that Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights stood tall and strong over her sister's most-known books. I only read these three just to know who was the best Bronte in my opinion. I have no doubt now that it was Emily. Wuthering is very different and so there was a rumor that Branwell helped Emily in writing it but I don't know about that.

Of course, I will still read Charlotte's other works and someday I will also read Agnes Grey. You see, kick-ass Anne, who made her character defy the English law, did not disappoint me. I also liked this book.

Thank you to my reading buddies, Ella and LS for reading this with me.

Thank you to my brother for lending his copy of the book to me.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 2: by K.D. (last edited May 09, 2012 09:29PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Bonnie, that's sooo funny! Where did you get that? Do you have some more? :)


B0nnie It's from http://harkavagrant.com
not much more on the Brontes, but there's lots of other stuff


Teresa I loved all the books mentioned in your review. I've read them all, but the only other Bronte book to add to my absolute favorites of theirs is Charlotte's "Villette."


K.D. Absolutely Thanks, T. I will prioritize "Villette" then. :)

Thanks again, Bonnie.


Maria Ella These classic novels made me realize how grateful I am belonging to this generation. If I were on that old times, I would not fit very well in the situation. These books made me wish to build a time machine, and try their lifestyle for a day. Just like Midnight in Paris. :)


Kwesi 章英狮 LOL! Nice Bronte's joke. I'm taking it so literal!


B0nnie Maria Ella wrote: "These classic novels made me realize how grateful I am belonging to this generation. If I were on that old times, I would not fit very well in the situation. These books made me wish to build a tim..."

I couldn't wear one of those dresses, even for a day...


Carrie M. Hi K.D.! I'm sorry, but this time I cannot agree with you. I do not beleive Charlotte was jeolous, I do beleive she was mostly upset because in the plot of this novel Anne reveals a lot about the character/disease of their beloved brother, Branwell. And before you decide who among the Brontë sisters is the best, I strongly recommend, even BEG you on my knees to read the entire collection of them! I'm sorry, but there is no other way. This is not a cake you can judge by eating one slice of each side!


message 10: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Carrie, I agree with you.

I will read all the rest soon. They are all good.

The picking up was just a whim. Not intended to hurt anyone's feelings.


Carrie M. K.D. wrote: "Carrie, I agree with you.

I will read all the rest soon. They are all good.

The picking up was just a whim. Not intended to hurt anyone's feelings."


Relax! I am a passionate reader/Brönte worm, that's all ;-)


message 12: by Henry (new) - added it

Henry Avila Awesome review,K.D.Have Agnes Grey. But too many other books to read.To consume.Will,someday.If she's as good as her sisters.The novel will be very enjoyable.Shame the siblings,were around, for such short times!


message 13: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Carrie, thanks.

Henry, that's so true! They've been long dead and yet people (we) are still reading them.


message 14: by Jaie (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jaie Certainly, Villette is the sublimation of all Bronte literature, it deals with issues of feminity, independence, and the complex wishes of the female heart in an endering, surprising and mind blowing way. Not reading Villette is almost a plot by patriarcal society and 20th century male oriented history of literature, to wipe out the graduation of a 19th century feminist movement that was mature, artisticly complex, and very resonant to modern day problems.


message 15: by K.D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Jaie, that sounds interesting. I'll look for my copy of Villette one of these days. Thanks!


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