MJ Nicholls's Reviews > Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
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bookshelves: novels, pre-1900s, sassysassenachs, oxford-classics, distaff

Firstly, let’s diagnose this phenomenon. I first encountered Brontëism—definable as a slavish devotion to every word the sisters put to parchment—at university. I encountered the syndrome in American students who had spent their teens reading comedies of manners and upmarket romance novels and found in the Brontës a vicarious way to eke out their own desires for windswept romances in huge drawing rooms. Then I met British students whose puppy love for Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre made me upchuck several weeks’ worth of pasta. So I cynically diagnosed the Brontë books as über-romance novels female readers held up as examples of the best sort of love possible in life—the love they would have if they could engineer their environment, to which all romantic relationships should aspire. Or versions of those moral-dilemma novels so popular at bookclubs and airports. It frustrated me. It was like having a particular area of literary history cordoned off to me. That I did not like.

Only problem was, I wouldn’t read the books. Now, however, I am reading the books. So this series of reviews is my attempt to understand the phenomenon of the Brontës so I can legitimately express discontent at their contemporary omnipresence, or proclaim my undying love too.

This novel is the first one by “the quiet one” Anne Brontë and describes her experiences as a governess in the homes of several brats. The first preconception smashed is that all Brontë novels are concerned with aristocratic characters: in this novel Agnes is from a lower middle-class family and volunteers to teach rich brats to help pay off her father’s debts. The chapters read like a handbook for being a patient and docile governess who has God on her side, with occasional turns of mannered humour and moments of affecting melodrama. The short chapters make the frequently dreary moments of micro-attention-to-detail regarding modes of deportment and social graces (that bog down so many novels of this period), more bearable. All in all, mildly entertaining. A lesser work from the lesser sister necessary for my experiment. More soon.

N.B. The comments below refer to a review I wiped.
N.N.B. Ever noticed the first initials of the sisters in alphabetical order spells A-C-E? Subliminal tactic?

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Reading Progress

April 27, 2012 – Started Reading
April 27, 2012 – Shelved
April 28, 2012 – Shelved as: novels
April 28, 2012 – Shelved as: pre-1900s
April 28, 2012 – Shelved as: sassysassenachs
April 28, 2012 – Finished Reading
July 9, 2012 – Shelved as: oxford-classics
August 11, 2012 – Shelved as: distaff

Comments Showing 1-28 of 28 (28 new)

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message 1: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate My first guess is #2, though I know not who this is. My second guess is #1.

Regardless of the right answer, I am proud of you for making such a morally and intellectually nutritious choice, and leave you with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NKXNT...


message 2: by knig (new)

knig 9?


message 3: by Megha (new)

Megha 9?


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

MJ Nicholls 9) sounds convincing but it's actually 11) Wandering hands at the library.


message 5: by Traveller (last edited Apr 29, 2012 05:04AM) (new)

Traveller It's a shame what Jan-Michael Vincent did to himself. I adored him in Airwolf.

I haven't actually read this novel. Who knows, you may be right.

So, I like your review for what it is, without having to agree or disagree with it. :)

(That is, rambling. )


Moira Russell Hmph.


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

MJ Nicholls Traveller wrote: "I like your review for what it is"

Dreadful.


message 8: by Traveller (new)

Traveller MJ wrote: "Traveller wrote: "I like your review for what it is"

Dreadful."


Glad you admitted it..


message 9: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls Easy now, or I'll ninjakaratechop ya with my kiltpower.


message 10: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls And in fairness to my review, all that happens in this novel is a governess looks after a few brats and their parents are mostly rude to her. Done.


message 11: by Traveller (new)

Traveller MJ wrote: "Easy now, or I'll ninjakaratechop ya with my kiltpower."

My uncle Iain (who loves wearing his kilt, btw) assures me that although REAL Scotsmen wear nothing under their kilts, this is not for purposes of practicing karate. Apparently REAL Scotsmen don't need karate..


message 12: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Wu "The first preconception smashed is that all Brontë novels are concerned with aristocratic characters..."

Oh my! You have some shocks coming. :-)


message 13: by Yolande (new) - added it

Yolande You know, I have only read Wuthering Heights so far, but from my research last year I encountered some discussions on their novels and most of their novels criticize the poor status of women in their society. I think it comes out the strongest in Charlotte's novels from what I read in literary criticism. I also still have to read the novels of Anne and Charlotte since the Brontës have never really interested me that much. I just think their novels need to be valued as some of the earliest feminist texts. I think that's why they are still so current.


message 14: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls Yolande wrote: "I just think their novels need to be valued as some of the earliest feminist texts. I think that's why they are still so current."

I think so, and reading Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the themes are extremely current, esp. with the subjugation of women still being a great idea in the Middle East.


message 15: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye You should collect all of these reviews and publish them as "MJ's Brontësaurus".


message 16: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls Ian wrote: "You should collect all of these reviews and publish them as "MJ's Brontësaurus"."

That's another reason why you're the King of Goodreads.


message 17: by William2 (new)

William2 Windswept in drawing rooms. That must be a very ramshackle place indeed.


message 18: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls William wrote: "Windswept in drawing rooms. That must be a very ramshackle place indeed."

I guess they left the windows open. Plays havoc with the paperwork.


message 19: by William2 (last edited May 15, 2012 02:19PM) (new)

William2 You must read Villette. A beautiful novel with gothic touches. But real writing. In fact, one of the best novels I know.


message 20: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls I will. Charlotte's my next stop.


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye MJ wrote: "That's another reason why you're the King of Goodreads."

You're too kind, MJ, but I'm too egalitarian to monopolise the Throne.


message 22: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye William wrote: "Windswept in drawing rooms. That must be a very ramshackle place indeed."

Something similar happened in a Robert Rankin book I read recently. The sun shone into the room through the distant windows.


Richard I'm just waiting for the day when MJism is declared a syndrome too...


message 24: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls I have a terminal case of MJism. I intend to infect you all.


message 25: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls That looks too like "My Jism". I intend to infect you all with that too.


message 26: by Yolande (new) - added it

Yolande MJ wrote: "That looks too like "My Jism". I intend to infect you all with that too."

:D


message 27: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye MJ wrote: "That looks too like "My Jism". I intend to infect you all with that too."

Your writing is both seminal and infectious!


message 28: by MJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

MJ Nicholls Ian wrote: "Your writing is both seminal and infectious!"

Ha!


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