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.