BOOK REVIEW: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

Agnes Grey is the touching story of a young girl who decides to enter the world as a governess, but whose bright illusions of acceptance, freedom and friendship are gradually destroyed.

Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë charts the development of gentle Agnes and sympathetically depicts the harsh treatment she receives along the way. Leaving her idyllic home and close-knit family, Agnes arrives at the Bloomfield’s residence, inside whose walls reign cruelty and neglect. Although faced with tyrannical children and over-indulgent parents, the generosity of spirit and warm candour learnt from her own family never desert her. Agnes also remains firm in the Murray household, where she is used by the two disdainful young daughters for their own deceitful ends and where her chances of happiness are almost spoiled for her.
A deeply moving account, Agnes Grey seriously discusses the contempt and inhumanity shown towards the poor though educated woman of the Victorian age, whose only resource was to become a governess.

My Thoughts:

A long-time lover of the works of the Brontë sisters, I am ashamed to admit I had never read Agnes Grey before. I don’t know why. I have a beautiful hardcover Folio set of their collected works, and most of them are well-thumbed and even tattered.

I re-read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall last year, and that reanimated my interest in the youngest and less well-known Brontë sisters. I determined to read her first book this year and have at last managed to do so.

It’s only a slim book, and was inspired by Anne Brontë’s true experiences working as a governess in the early 19th century. The heroine Agnes is young and idealistic, and sets out to help her family by trying to bring in some income. Her first position is caring for a handful of cruel, tyrannical children whose parents never punish them for anything wrong that they do (including killing baby birds with a stone). Her second position is as governess to two rich, spoilt young ladies who almost undermine Agnes’s own chance of happiness out of spite. It’s delicate, haunting, and sad, for – although Agnes finds happiness at the end – we know that poor Anne died tragically young and without knowing her work would end up being so celebrated.


You might also like to read my review of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:

VINTAGE BOOK REVIEW:The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Kate Forsyth
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