Friday, April 16, 2010

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Sometimes I feel that being a book nerd or an English major makes people have automatic expectations for you. I've been on both ends of the spectrum- it took four years for me to attain the title of "English Major" and now "Holder of BA in English". Before that I was just a book worm.

And for both you run into this typical expectance for you to 1) know all books that exist and 2) like specific genres and/or authors. It seems that these expectations are pressed upon me more ever since I claimed the major of English. People will gasp at me when I would state that I didn't particularly like Russian literature. They'd look at me oddly when I'd admit that I never have read a Stephen King novel.

One of the expectations is for you to absolutely adore both Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. While I enjoy the plot-lines of Austen's books and definitely look at her as if she were on a pedestal- I find it hard for me to get through her books. It's just incredibly hard for me to sit through it. But I like her stories, I like the ideas behind them, I respect her, it's just the actual sitting down and reading of the books that I find to be tough. But with the Bronte sisters I really like the story lines and I find myself to be a little more capable of reading through the books.

With that, let me introduce to you the youngest of the Bronte sisters- Anne- and her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I truly enjoyed this book in that it seemed the most realistic out of all the Bronte sisters novels and also the novel that seems capable of claiming a common topic through the centuries.

Helen comes into the novel as a mysterious woman and befriends Gilbert. He is at first weary of her but the reader will know he has feelings for long before he himself realizes it. She's curious, a supposive widow with a young son, but keeps entirely to herself which leads to many rumors that run amuck. It isn't until Helen bequeaths to Gilbert her cherished journal that light is shed on her mysterious past.

This is where a modern day addiction comes into play- but it's one of the worlds oldest vices. Helen's husband was an alcoholic- a detail that is straight from Anne Bronte's own life because her own brother was one- and as the journal progresses through time her husband becomes more addicted to the drink, more cruel, and more abusive.

At times the evil ways of this man are so extreme that I, as the reader, stared with amazement and then devoured more of the written words with hope that something horrible happens to him. Through it all, there was so much negativity and upset. That is quite possibly the worst part of the book: Helen's life is a miserable one and you have to buckle on through it to make it to the end.

I really enjoyed this book as I've previously mentioned. I find it to be the most normal of the Bronte books (no crazy men digging up graves or nutty women trying to set people online) and sadly, many people can understand the concept of alcoholism because it's so common an occurrence. It took me a long time to read, but that simply was because I was absentminded (this happens at the end/beginning of seasons- I find it hard to concentrate on anything). Go pick up this novel, it's not as popular as Anne's sisters, but I think it's a fantastic read.



  1. I honestly think the Brontes and Austen novels are falling out of favour with English majors. I've got an MA, and most people on my course groaned at the idea of these books. That said, there was a lot of excitement about Russian lit - I think it's getting more popular.

    After reading this review I'm keen to read this now - it sounds harrowing, and that's exactly my type of thing!

    Thanks for the review! x

  2. Thank you Bethany for the comment! Maybe it's a difference between countries or as simple as a difference between schools but it appeared that the majority of the English majors in my school- to my knowledge- despised Russian literature (at least I did). It was never something that was really required of us to read. It seemed that we read a lot of classics but Russian lit was never anything on our class expectancies.

    And it's a wonderful book! I hope you enjoy it.


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