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Agnes Grey (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – September 8, 2006
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From the Back Cover
Written with a realism that shocked critics, this biting social commentary offers a sympathetic portrait of Agnes and a moving indictment of her brutish and haughty employers. Separated from her family and friends by many miles, paid little more than subsistence wages, Agnes stands alone—both in society at large and in a household where she is neither family member nor servant.
In addition to its challenge to the era's chauvinism and materialism, Agnes Grey features a first-person narrative that offers a rare opportunity to hear the voice of a Victorian working woman.
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The titular Agnes is a young woman of modest means who takes work as a governess to help her family through financial hardship. Most of the book is dedicated to her hardships as a governess. More specifically, Agnes is constantly hampered in her attempts to educate or discipline her pupils by the parents’ insistence that the children are perfect special snowflakes who should not be unduly upset or bothered by the governess. It is later in the book that she meets Edward Weston and soon realizes she is in love with him. It’s not his looks, charm or even wit that attract her but his kindness, morality and piety.
The book is short and the plot is straightforward with very few twists and turns. Like Agnes, it wastes no time on frivolities but gets right to the point. It’s plain but it’s certainly not dull. It’s a book I would give is a gift to a girl just entering the tween years with the hope that it plants a seed that blooms into something bigger.
Many will feel this who have felt that they could love, and whose hearts tell them that they are worthy to be loved again; while yet they are debarred, by the lack of this or some such seeming trifle, from giving and receiving the happiness they seem almost made to fell and to impart
The passage is redolent with a suppre4ssed anger that rages against the unfairness that others can treat love as a rifle while she is held remote from it by her circumstances. This suppressed rage explains the character “Rosalie”. Rosalie is beautiful and superficial. She uses love as a trifle a that is as a way to manipulate people to reinforce her own vanity. She can easily obtain what is so difficult for Agnes to feel and share. She trifles with the rector Hatfield and worst for Agnes she attempts the same thing with Agnes’ true love Mr. Weston. This is a book which is quiet and filled with statements of Victorian piety and probity. It is also a book of extreme suppressed rage.
The structure of the book is straightforward. Characters are static and are not developed in any complex way. However, there are parts of the book where the writing is of the highest order. The opening paragraph of the book and some of the text in the “Observations” chapter (the one passage above as one example are examples of superlative writing. This is no dull text suited for only literary or historical analysis. This is an enjoyable book well worth reading.
The true author of this book is Anne Bronte, the youngest of the Bronte sisters. When you get this book it will show three pen names, because it was included with two other books, penned by two of her sisters; Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. It is being presented in single book form here, but it is true to the original, hence the three pen names on the the first page. All three were later published separately using their given names.
I love the writing of this age! The sentence structure, wording, and vocabulary swept me away. The pace is steady and my emotions were in play as I read. It is a "thinking" book, too. My emotions have faded, but I am left thinking about how deep this book really goes.
At first glance, it is a romance. It also is a unveiling, an "outing" of the societal class structure of Brontes' time; the manner of marriage among the higher (richer) class; and an indictment of child-rearing, and education of the children of the wealthy. The beauty of it is these flaws were done inside a romance.! When the authors were identified as three of the Brontes', the uproar was immense among the upper class.
There are three strong themes that run through this book. The first is the love of family. Opposed to that is the "idea of family". The second is that of strong faith above all else; the idea that we should live our lives with faith in our foremost thoughts. Opposed to that is the idea that "looking well in the eyes of others while performing good works" keeps the image of the " idea of family" intact. Out of the first three, the exposure of children being raised by nannies and governesses, and the non-education the children were receiving, caused the most uproar.
These are the main themes that stood out for me. I have identified others, but it would be kinder to leave them for you to discover in this wonderful, deceptively-innocent tale.
If you are a lover of the written word, get this book. For an excellent example of "outing", as it is used today, get this book. I loved it! It was, and is, fabulous!
Most recent customer reviews
on the order of Austen novels.