Skip to main content

Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte

I finished The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (finally!) a while ago, but only until now have I managed to write a review on it, simply because I didn’t know what to say. So, thanks to a little bit of help from other bloggers, here it is:

Becky asked: Did you like the Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte? Would you recommend it? Does it hold up to the more well known works by the other Bronte sisters

Bybee asked: Have you read the other Bronte sisters? Have you read Agnes Grey? Does Tenant of Wildfell Hall have that Gothic feel to it?

Alessandra asked: Were you able to relate to the main character? Is this a book you would recommend?

Suey asked: Oh, I loved The Tenant of Wilfell Hall... but it's been awhile since I read it. I remember it bounced from a letter format... back to a more normal narrative form. Did you like that? Or did it interrupt the flow for you? I need to read this one again some day!

Imani asked: Ha, ok, clearly a lot of Bronte fans here. I'm in the same boat -- what did you think of it? I've only read some of Charlotte's novels and though I have "Agnes Grey" I've yet to read it. (Only the first few pages and that was promising.)

Bookchronicle asked: on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte: How does Anne compare with Charlotte and Emily? As Anne is not most commonly listed as a "classic" (unlike Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights) do you think it deserves a more high polished reputation?

Chris asked: I enjoyed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I think Anne is overshadowed by her sisters. Have you read any of the other Brontes' works? (Where does Tenant fit in for you if you have?) Did you think Helen was a strong female character?

She Reads Books asked: Have you read any other books by Anne Bronte? In particular, if you've read it, how does Wildfell compare to Agnes Grey? How does it compare to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights?

As to whether or not I liked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I was really on the fence about it. It was a tough novel to get into, but it really picked up around the middle, and I’ll tell you why. The first half of the book is narrated by Gilbert Markham, a local squire. You can tell that Anne Bronte didn’t know very much about men; the “voice” she uses here isn’t very masculine. In fact Gilbert himself doesn’t seem very masculine; he prefers to spend time chatting with the other female characters and only once, I believe, does he ever have a conversation with another man.

The book picks up when we get to the diary of Helen Graham, and this is also where the mystery truly begins. Helen didn’t strike me as being either weak or strong, just melodramatic at times. Also, the abrupt bounce from the epistolary format to diary was a bit jarring. Don’t get me wrong, Bronte is a good writer, and she really its her stride in the latter part of the book, but ultimately I preferred Agnes Grey over Tenant (in the former book, Anne wrote about what she knew, which was governessing). It’s true that Anne is overshadowed by her older sisters, but my lukewarm feelings about this book shouldn’t put you off from reading her work.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read either Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, but those books, in my opinion, were more memorable than this one. There were more characters that grabbed my attention in those books. I even preferred Villette, in a way. But as I've said, Anne is a good writer; in my opinion, this just isn't her best.


Anonymous said…
I haven't read any Bronte. I have a copy of Wuthering Heights on its way from bookmooch. I guess I'll start there.
Lenore said…
Wow - you've already read 11 and finished the challenge. YAY!

I need to start on my 3rd book. I think it's going to be The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.
jenclair said…
I've only read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I always thought The Tenant of Wildfell Hall sounded good - great title anyway. However, maybe I should try Agnes Grey instead.
Michelle said…
Interesting. I'm always thinking I should read one of the other sisters.. perhaps I'll start with a different one!
Michael Collins said…
I realize it's merely a difference of opinion, but, as a man, I think Anne understood the gender much better than Emily or Charlotte. Gilbert struck me as a type of vain young fellow who fancies himself a ladykiller (he describes himself as 'the beau of the parish' at one point. How conceited!), and I thought Arthur and Lowborough were more believable and balanced versions of Heathcliff and Rochester, respectively.

I really have to disagree with the idea that Agnes Grey is better. . again, it's a taste thing. AG is very good the way a piece of excellent needlepoint is good, if you ask me -- it's contained, extremely precise and neat, great attention to detail, and its subtlety rewards the sensitive or observant reader. Wildfell is where Anne gets ambitious, and I think it is the more memorable and broadly appealing of the two.
Dorothy W. said…
I'm hoping to read this one sometime soon -- I'm interested in your mixed reaction but certainly not put off the book! I'm curious to see what that male voice is like.
Amanda said…
I liked this book pretty well. I read it a couple months ago and reviewed it on my book review blog, here. I've now read one book by each of the Bronte sisters, and ultimately, this ranked somewhere in the middle. I was impressed by her boldness in making these statements about women's lives back in the time period when she lived. She was sure to receive a lot of negative criticism for it.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…