Until recently, I didn’t know much about the novel, Agnes Grey (published in 1847) by Anne Brontë. I knew that it was written by one of the Brontë sisters. Not much else. This past summer I read several reviews on the novel that piqued my curiosity. One day, while browsing the shelves at my local library I spied a copy and pulled it off the shelf without even thinking about it. I knew it was time to find out more.
Agnes Grey, a daughter of a minister, learns early in life that not everything goes according to plan. Her family encounters financial ruin and Agnes sets out to get a job. Not many jobs were available to woman during the Victorian age, so she becomes a governess. She ends up working for two different families, but the children from both are uncontrollable and spoiled. I could relate to Agnes, somewhat, since during my college days I worked in a day school and as a nanny. Many of the children I worked with were extremely spoiled and not so nice. One in particular liked to kick me and everyone else. Dealing with their parents was worse. This isn’t to say all the children and parents I worked with were horrible. It’s just easier to remember the ones who terrified me.
This is not a flashy novel. The writing is uncomplicated, but not boring. While the writing is simple, the subject matter is not. Anne Brontë addresses many of the issues during her day: oppression, class division, isolation, and the treatment of animals. I found myself cheering on the quiet woman, who not only survives hardships, but conquers them. At first I didn’t think that it would be a page turner. Yet, I found myself sucked into the story and wanted to know what was going to happen next.
Also, I was surprised that Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë all have their own unique writing style. I haven’t read all of the novels by the sisters so I’m not sure yet if I have a favorite. Given that they are so different, I’m not sure it’s necessary to have a favorite. This novel is on my 1001 list of books you must read before you die.
Below you’ll find some photos of Holland Park. I didn’t read the entire book while sitting in the park, but on my free afternoons I did walk over and read snippets of the novel there. These photos were taken earlier this year. There are many quiet spots in this park and when I needed to take a break there was much to take in.
What a lovely place to relax. Sounds like a good read, I’ll keep it in mind. 🙂
Holland park is one of my faves here. It isn’t as busy, which is a major plus when seeking a quiet place to read.
I had completely forgotten about Anne Bronte and was surprised to hear that her book made the list. May have to pick it up.
I’ve only read a book in the setting where it took place (Southern Bavaria) once, but it added so much to the experience. Being able to visit the locations in the book really made it come alive for me.
She has two on the list. The other is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I love visiting the areas where novels took place or where the author lived. That is one of the first things I seek out when I travel. Several of the towns I’ve been to have been literary gold mines, such as New Orleans. It adds so much more to the reading experience.
I ♥ Agnes Grey. 🙂
I just finished reading Villette by Charlotte Bronte and really enjoyed it. Like you say, the writing styles of the sisters is quite different and Charlotte’s style was complex and precise. I must read Agnes Grey and look forward to enjoying that as well.
I haven’t read Villette yet but I want to. I’ve heard good things. Yes, Charlotte is more complex. Some might think that Anne’s writing is too simple compared to Charlotte, but I didn’t feel that way at all. If all writers had the same style I wouldn’t like to read. I hope you like Agnes Grey and I’ll let you know what I think of Villette when I read it.
It’s hard to find three writers in the same family. It sounds like a good read, thank you for the suggestion.
I’m amazed that the sisters not only wrote, but today, they are well-known and respected. I would love to sit around their dinner table and soak it in.
Wouldn’t that be great?!
Yes it would, Patti!
I would too.
It would be fun and edifying to drop in on them. We can, in a way, with their writings.
I think you summed it up perfectly with “This is not a flashy novel. The writing is uncomplicated, but not boring. While the writing is simple, the subject matter is not.” I wish I were that succinct in my review.
I thought your write-ups on this novel were great and you were one of the bloggers that persuaded me to read this novel. Thanks for the tip by the way. I hope all has been well!
Hot and Humid in Boston! I’m ready for fall 😀 I’m glad people are reading it, Anne is definitely picking up a following from The Classics Club!
I remember those steamy days in Boston and I don’t miss them at all. My last summer there was miserable, maybe because I knew I was moving to a cooler climate. Gotta love the Classics Club 🙂 Try to stay cool.
Seems I may need to put this on my to read list
It was a nice read. I’ve been loving the classics lately.
I haven’t read Ane Brontë yet but I have got The Tennant of Wildfell hall which I’ve heard must be very good. I should get to it soon.
Slightly off-topic Are you aware I and Delia (Postcards from Asia) are hosting a Dickens in December event?
I didn’t catch that. Is the event on your blog? You know I love Dickens!
When I wrote about the Dickens Dictionary, Delia and I, or rather she had the idea to do a Dickens in December. I think we will do a proper event with badge and all but nothing is discussed yet. First Tabucchi week and then NOVEMBER – is German Literature Month!!!
Count me in for Dickens and I requested a Tabucchi book from the library. I’ll have to look for a German book for November.
I recently read Agnes Grey, and I agree with everything you wrote here. It’s such a small, quiet novel that packs a punch. I think that Anne’s writing is a lot more realist than either of her sisters’ style; I can actually see the story of Agnes Grey happening in real life.
Yes this novel feels more real. I would hate to think that Wuthering Heights could really happen. I enjoyed that book, but for different reasons. Anne’s writing comes across as more honest and heartfelt. Thanks for the comment!
Looks like a great place to relax and absorb a good book! Great photos and thanks for the book review.
I hope to read many more books in Holland Park 🙂 Thanks.
This sounds like something I should add to my list. Thanks for the reccommendation.
I hope you like it!
I read all of the Bronte’s novels almost one after the other and really enjoyed them. Strangely enough I have no recollection of this one – I think I will have to have a revisit.
I think it’s worth a revisit. I still have a few of theirs I haven’t read. What a family to produce three great writers.