Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
This was the story of a young woman named Agnes Grey who, in order to help her family when they come under some hard financial trouble, decides to become a governess. She’s the youngest of two daughters in her family and has always somewhat been babied. They never let her help out much in any way so when she tells them that it is in her mind to become a governess they believe she will be in over her head. But Agnes believes she will be a great success and goes to work for her first family.
She quickly learns that this family, with all their wealth, is basically horrid. The boy likes to torture animals and won’t listen to anything Agnes says and the other children follow suit. They have not one redeemable characteristic. Try as she might she cannot get the children to learn almost anything and the family decides to go another way with their education after not too long. But Agnes is determined not to fail so she advertises for another situation and lands at another house. This family believes in instilling the idea that nothing should be too hard for anyone and the children (who are older than her first charges) should never struggle to find any answers. This results in them not really learning anything…again.
But Agnes sticks with this family for a few years and manages to find some nice aspects residing in the eldest daughter, Miss Murray, but very few indeed. And during that time she tries to correct the children’s horrible ideas when it comes to morality and basic goodness. However it does not really work because Miss Murray spends most of her time trying to trick men into loving her and then basically laughing in their faces, including the object of Agnes’ affection.
Agnes Grey was Anne Bronte’s first novel and also the first one of hers that I read. And I must say that makes me quite happy because I’ve now read something by every Bronte sister! While I did like this book for the most part I could certainly tell that this was her first novel. It had the feeling in many parts like that of a rough draft. It just wasn’t as well crafted as I would expect a full drawn out novel to be. I did notice that in comparing her to her other more famous sisters, Emily and Charlotte, she is much less dark and moody. This had a much lighter heart. It was also much more direct and to the point. Probably why the book was so much shorter than Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Anne Bronte did not seem to go on and on in the details of little things as they did. The one part she did get a bit carried away was talking about religion, but that was it.
However, I didn’t like the main character very much. I didn’t dislike her either but it seemed that she had a negative opinion of everyone aside from the members of her own family. It seemed as if she felt she was entirely too great and the rest were entirely too awful. The moralizing got a tad ridiculous and too much for me at times. It kind of seemed like a rich versus poor set up where all the people with money turned out to be wicked and that’s just not the reality and I don’t like it when authors portray things as such. I need shades of gray.
But for a first novel I would say it was pretty good. I didn’t hate it but I definitely didn’t love it. It was a very quick read though, so I definitely didn't feel like it was a waste of my time in any way. I’ve heard much better things about her second (and last) novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, so I’m excited to read that sometime in the future.