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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
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1001 Monthly Book Club > January {2012} Discussion -- THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL by Anne Brontë

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Charity (bigbookslut) | 609 comments Mod
Let the discussion begin!

Katherine (geckoedit) | 5 comments I'm absolutely loving this book. Especially the way that Bronte pokes fun at propriety (and at Jane Austen, indirectly), and how everyone but Gilbert is apparently on the edge of sanity and quite hysterical, screaming and dashing their heads against walls, etc. Anne Bronte is a cheeky one indeed.

And her depiction of domestic life in that situation (I'm trying to avoid spoilers here) in the second half of the book is incredibly realistic, although sometimes it seems a bit preachy. But I guess that was necessary for books of that period, or it's a reflection of Helen's character, etc. Still, I'm enjoying this one.

Keri | 17 comments I liked the main story. At first it seemed like a fairly predictable story, but then I realized that at the time this was fairly revolutionary. The idea that men had an obligation to treat their wives well and that wives had a right (maybe even a moral obligation)to leave evil husbands would have been a surprising idea to many.

The frame story, though, I'm not a big fan of. It seemed unnecessary and required that the main story be told through letters, which is a little distracting, in my opinion.

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Marialyce I am enjoying this book as well and recognizing how very progressive Anne Bronte was. The novel reads like a somewhat modern one as it tackles the concept of abuse. This was something the Victorians were quite taken with while the critics criticized it extensively. Although I am only up to chapter 9, I find Anne seemed to have a very firm grip on the ideas of abuse, gossip, and people's judgement on others.

Namida... | 13 comments it's the first time the group reads sth i actually own, finally i'll join in group reads...
will start it right away ^^

Michael (knowledgelost) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is probably one of the better Victorian novels on Marriage, Love, Social Realism, Piety, Alcoholism, Status and identity

Talia (taliafrench) I found myself very taken with the book and couldn't wait to find out the mystery and connections of Helen. I appreciated getting the whole story from her point of view. I can definitely imagine that some of Bronte's religious views were very progressive for the time. I did get a little tired at the end of all the letters and wished that Bronte would have wrapped up the story a little more succinctly.

Katherine (geckoedit) | 5 comments Agreed, it definitely dragged on a bit too long.

Sandi | 205 comments I enjoyed this book a lot. Anne Bronte's novels feel more "real" than her sisters' to me. I think in my preface it said that Charlotte considered The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a mistake...I wonder why though. Too progressive? Displaying marital problems of the upper class too negatively? Or just the way it was written, using those diary entries and letters?

Julie (readerjules) I read this last july so don't remember all the details but according to my review, I thought it dragged out a bit in the middle. I did like it overall though (even though the letter format was weird)

message 11: by Marialyce (new) - added it

Marialyce I would like to know what everyone thinks about the place of gossip and innuendo in this book. Is Anne trying to make one aware that just because you are different I.e,not from this particular village, does that make you fodder for gossip mongers? Is gossip what initially destroys Helen and any relationship she hopes to have with Gilbert? (I am not done with the book yet)

Laura | 9 comments I would not post this, but it is relevant and it cracked me up Bronte Comic Strip. I realize that Anne Bronte was ahead of her time, but I still found this novel very difficult to read. I also agree with Sandi, that Anne's novels feel more real to me as well. Maybe that's why Helen's unhappiness was so hard for me to endure.

Jonpaul | 143 comments I'm only about a quarter finished but the gossip has hit a full tilt boogie at this point. What's striking about the gossip-and evidence of the author's talent-is that, despite the significant difference in how we now live, it is so similar to how people still act. I'll be interested to see where this goes.

FrankH | 39 comments Laura...loved your Bronte Comic Strip post! Would have prefered this story as a pen-and-ink graphic novel instead of the over-extended, ultimately tiresome 400+-page epistolary narrative we have here. Can you envison the image of Mr. Huntingdon in his cups, a laughing, malicious sneer on his face, looking down at his long-suffering, tearful wife? Actually, I think the writing is pretty decent, the realistic portrait of a young married life on the rocks that's ahead of its time. Needs editing, though. As for gossip and innuendo, isn't this the 'currency of the realm' and the basis for how many of these Victorian stories 'thicken' the plot? There's always some mis-representation or half-truth -- calculated or not -- creating intrigue.

Karen | 24 comments I'm repeating the review I posted when I finished the book. I was disappointed. Don't know if I was more disappointed in myself or in the book. I remember loving "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" for their stories. Old-fashioned language did not bother me then ( 40 years ago). However, I gave up reading word for word after one-quarter of this book. I liked many of Bronte's descriptions, particularly of people, but became annoyed at the times when five adjectives were used when one would suffice. Is that because I have become too used to the simplicity of modern novels (and yet, I believe that in many of today's novels the language is too simple!)? I don't think so. I am reading "Cutting for Stone" currently and am not at all bothered by elaborate descriptions and extensive background information.

As I've said in previous postings, story comes first for my enjoyment. The situations depicted in"Tenant of Wildfell Hall" may have been new to novels in the 1800s, but are commonplace in the modern era. I predicted much of what happened and just kept skimming to see if I was correct. Had been planning to read "Agnes Grey" but don't know if I will bother now. Perhaps I should read more old classics and see if my tastes have changed too much to appreciate them as I should.

Karen | 24 comments Laura, I also loved your comic strip post. Bookmarked it and will look at archives when I need a laugh!

B0nnie | 5 comments Laura, that comic strip is very funny! And in reality, Charlotte did criticize The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. But Anne had the foresight & courage to tell-it-like-it-is when Mr. Charming becomes an alcoholic dickbag. With astonishing detail, style, and passion. The dashing Arthur Huntingdon's downward spiral and the consequences for Helen are totally convincing.

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I thought this was ok. At first I was annoyed at Gilbert for acting like a petulant child, then the middle section telling Mrs. Graham's backstory was far too long. However once that section had finished I immediately went back and skimmed over the first part to understand that bit in the light of all the new information, and this time I enjoyed it much better. Tonight I finished it, and the ending could be from a rom-com of the modern era.

It's not the best book. All of the characters were annoying in some way or another, and it's hard to have sympathy for a character that you can't stand. Anne Bronte also just doesn't have the writing ability of her sisters. However, I do like a soppy happy ending, so it somewhat redeemed itself in the end.

message 19: by Bea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bea | 110 comments I enjoyed this book and sort of understand why Charlotte wanted to suppress it. Anne got her exposure to debauched men from her brother Branford, who was an alcohol and opium addict.

In addition, the novel advocates conduct which was simply illegal at the time. In the 1820's when the novel was set, a married woman was basically the property of her husband. There was no such thing as civil divorce. A married woman had no right to her own property, nor to the children of the marriage. She was supposed to put up and shut up.

Furthermore, Anne had some unorthodox religious beliefs, including the view that sinner's souls were purified after death and no one was condemned to Hell.

I have read that the incident in which Helen slams the bedroom door on her husband was the shot that launched the women's rights movement.

Juliana (Jaldous) | 20 comments I didn't really care for this book all that much and I'm a huge Austin fan so I had high hopes. I didn't like either of the main characters, and I have a hard time believing that Gilbert is ultimately a better match for heroine.

I did appreciate being reminded how much being a woman in the 19th century sucked. We've come a long way baby!

AnaΣtaΣia | 3 comments I read this book some years back and although it is definitely a book worth reading, it didn't have the same effect as other books of the Bronte sisters had on me. However, it vividly portrays the English society of the time and it shows us its true colors which unfortunately weren't,only, nice horse carriages, grant houses and beautiful dresses...

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments Bea wrote: "I enjoyed this book and sort of understand why Charlotte wanted to suppress it. Anne got her exposure to debauched men from her brother Branford, who was an alcohol and opium addict.

In addition,..."

Thanks for the insights, Bea!

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Marialyce I really enjoyed this book greatly. As Bea said it certainly gave one insights into a Victorian marriage. It also made me realize that there were abusive men in all times and I had to applaud Anne Bronte for pulling no punches. It was insightful and a book that surely was ahead of its time.

Laura | 57 comments Marialyce wrote: "I really enjoyed this book greatly. As Bea said it certainly gave one insights into a Victorian marriage. It also made me realize that there were abusive men in all times and I had to applaud Anne..."

I do agree with you Marialyce.

Carly Svamvour (WildCityWoman) | 25 comments Yeah, that comic strip was funny, Laura.


Where Helen was coming from, though, was kinda predictable. Dunno why I knew that, maybe I'd read it years before. I guessed who her brother was, right away.


I like this Bronte sister better than the other (Jane Eyre). She doesn't tend to tell the reader the women oughta' kiss the men's feet.


As for the gossip, I think it was jealousy, mainly.


No - I wouldn't envy a woman living in that time of the world's history. It sucked.

Kerri | 1 comments I didn't really care for this book. It started well but it just got so repetitive after she was married. I get it that drinking that much alcohol can lead to corrupt behavior and the seeds were sown long before she met him. I kept reading only to know what happened to all the characters.

I was surprised her brother helped her. That didn't seem right for the Victorian era. I was very surprised she went back to nurse him. I was surprised she was able to get through to Hattersley. I was surprised she inherited her uncle's estate.

message 27: by Jana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jana | 1 comments Like so many of you, I loved the comic strip! The first third of the book was captivating, slowed down in the middle, and picked back up at the end. Overall this was a 4 star book for me. As some of you mentioned, it was revolutionary in its day, but predictable nowadays. I liked the letters within the letters and all the drama they contained.

Carly Svamvour (WildCityWoman) | 25 comments We got the DVD in - beautiful! They did that so well. You will despise Huntingdon even more than you do now!

message 29: by Ali (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ali (ali218) | 1 comments I think this might be one of my favorite books of all three Bronte sisters. It seems like this story could be one that could occur in our time, which I find incredible. Mrs. Markham seemed like an obnoxious mother-in-law from the very beginning and I enjoyed the verbal sparring between her and Mrs. Graham.
I will admit it was a bit irritatingly repetitive in the middle listening to Mrs. Graham go on and on but for the most part I really enjoyed it.

Kirsten | 29 comments Carly - I also enjoyed the DVD of the BBC production. Well worth it.

Rory M. (Roar) | 27 comments Even though I am finding Helen's portion of the book tedious I think it serves to illustrate a woman's role in the home perfectly. Their daily life was less than exciting and spent in such a restricted manner. Not to mention they were at the mercy of their husband's authority and before that their father's authority.

In the introduction of the copy I am reading it states that the novel received 'hostile reviews'. It affected her deeply that society didn't understand her intentions and viewed the book as scandalous.

This is one of my favorite Bronte novels. My least favorite was Villette.

David (Deinonychus) | 181 comments Of the Brontë novels, I'd only read Villette before, which I loved, so was looking forward to this. I don't think I enjoyed it as much as Villette, though.
Unlike many of you, I preferred the central section, where Helen tells her story, to the outer sections, which I felt dragged a bit. I thought the ending in particular was far too overdrawn, and unnecessary. The conceit that 20 odd years could have passed since these events, without having told his brother-in-law seemed a bit far-fetched to me, particularly given his sister was quite involved in the original story.

I didn't warm to Gilbert at all, I thought he was capricious and he didn't seem to have time for others beside himself, especially in the way he treated Eliza after Helen came along.

Corina Romonti (PaleView) | 20 comments I can only say I was glad it was over. It was unnecessarily long. And I hated the characters, especially Helen with her arrogant superiority to everything that she considers under her standards. Maybe it`s the exact mirror of Anne Bronte. And if that`s the case, I`m pretty sure she was a self-important, stuck up lady. Maybe that was the etiquette at the time...but I really didn`t like it. I think I`m not a fan of Victorian prose.

message 34: by Namida... (last edited Mar 05, 2012 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Namida... | 13 comments i'm surprised at people's comments, i loved this book profusely...
i especially disagree with the 'dragged on' discription, for me this was the least bronte sister book to drag on, most of villette is downright tedious, only when M.Paul begun to have a major role did it become amazing, Agnes Gray (my least fav) is tedious throughout, and wuthering heights probably had exactly the same style as tenant, the main narrator, a man not very interesting (Lockwood and Markham), comes in and then meets the person with the interesting story (Nelly and Helen) who takes on the narrative of the second part or most of the book, and then the uninteresting main narrator comes again in volume 3, volume 3 in both books seems boring only with the occasional additions of the second narrator to the story again.,,
i loved the characters, they were brilliantly woven in my opinion, Helen, Huntington, Hatterslay and Hargrave especially....the story of helen shook me and it was well built up in my opinion

Stephanie "Jedigal" (Jedigal) | 271 comments Wow. I'm surprised too. I just read this myself, found it on par with Austen, liked it better than her sister's works I've tried so far (WH, V, and JE). I didn't find it to drag at any portion. Possibly this is due to a good amount of experience with novels of the period (and therefore patience). But perhaps also due to my outlook on marriage and structural inequalities (societal or governmental) and an appreciation of all those who buck the system - including Mrs. Graham and Ms. Bronte! Of course the characters were all flawed, but how could they not be - I don't know anyone in real life who upon greater familiarity does not turn out to be flawed. Flawed or not, and I personally found her religious bent to be a bit much for me - I truly admired the character of Helen. And I found using Gilbert's point of view to be a very effective mechanism for paying out the story carefully to maintain suspense (let's all remember what the 'suspense' in these novels of polite Victorian society can really entail without it being a soap opera). The journal and letters worked for me also as a device.

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