Saturday, September 11, 2010

Agnes Grey

"All true histories contain instruction; although, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut. Whether this be the case with my history or not, I am hardly competent to judge. I sometimes think it might prove useful to some, and entertaining to others; but the world may judge for itself. Shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few fictitious names, I do not fear to venture; and will candidly lay before the public what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend."
This is the opening paragraph to Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey. It is a story about a girl, from a good family that has fallen into hard times, who takes jobs as a governess to earn her keep and help her parents. With an opening like that, and knowing that Anne herself worked as a governess, one expects some tales of shameful abuse that governesses were sometimes subjected to. It was not the complete expose of the harsh life of a governess that I expected. After the initial horrid family, Agnes is taken on by a new family that is far gentler. She meets the local curate and falls in love with him and has the fairy tale ending of marrying him that eluded Anne herself .(and probably most governesses)
In these days of reality tv and famous people going bottomless for photographers, perhaps her novel does not seem as shocking to me in its revelations about the inner workings of wealthy families and how governesses are treated as it should. Her manner of writing reminded me very much of Jane Austen and I am curious enough to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

3 comments:

anachronist said...

I haven't read this one but you made me curious. Generally I have nothing against the Bronte sisters' books but sometimes they make me laugh out loud (Heathcliff, oh Heathcliff, where art thou? ;) ).

The Red Witch said...

Yeah, something seems so unreal about Wuthering Heights. Anne's story does have much more realism about it. I was reading Wiki's write up on her. Her sister Charlotte suppressed publication of her main novel and consigned her to obscurity because of the gritty realism of Wildfell Hall.
And the poor girl lost her second job as a governess, which she does not hint to in her book, because her brother was carrying on with her mistress and the husband found out.

Tracy said...

I'm not at all familiar with Anne Brontes work. This one does sound similar to Jane Eyre (or certainly the governess marrying above her station and living happily ever after element certainly seems to be a favourite Bronte Sisters' theme) . Yet another book to add to the TBR pile.