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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (A Penguin Classics Hardcover) Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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• "The title of "the first feminist novel" has been awarded to other books, perhaps with less justice... a cracking page-turner." --Guardian --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Anne Brontë (1820–1849) was the youngest of the Brontë family. She was educated at home in the Yorkshire village of Howarth, and later held two positions as a governess, difficult experiences that inspired her first novel, Agnes Grey, in 1847. This was followed by The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1848. Anne died of tuberculosis in 1849, aged twenty-nine.
Stevie Davies (Introduction and Notes), who comes from Morriston, Swansea, is a novelist, literary critic, biographer, and historian. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Academi Gymreig, and a professor of creative writing at the University of Wales, Swansea.
Top customer reviews
However, there are two narrators of the book- a young farmer Gilbert and the artist Helen who is wife to a sociopath- and I didn't like either. I found Gilbert vapid, his sense of entitlement annoying, and his inability to cope with emotions immature. Helen was righteous to a fault, though her rebellion and anti-conformist attitude is pretty impressive considering her social class and contemporary mores. So their romance annoyed me because I couldn't understand why they liked each other so much, and it didn't keep me hanging on the edge of my seat. Perhaps Bronte was ahead of her time in writing an unreliable narrator in Gilbert. Maybe Helen is overly righteous and perfect by design, so that judges Victorian readers could feel empathy for her and this buy the author's thesis that their society should rethink their laws around marriage. I don't have to like the main characters to like a book, but I disliked them so much that it left a sour taste in my mouth.
I guess I would recommend this to a friend as a feminist piece of history, but not as a fun read.
Anne Brontë's novel still has shock value today, but in 1848 it was a bombshell. It dealt with a subject that was hush-hush in polite society: upper-class alcoholism. Drunkenness was supposed to be a failing of the lower orders.
Brontë's depictions of "coarse language," "revolting scenes" and outright debauchery among gentlemen horrified the critics, who sternly warned "lady readers" against The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Amazingly, even Anne's sister Charlotte disapproved of the novel and called its subject matter "an entire mistake."
Britain's patriarchal legal system offered no protection to women in abusive marriages. A woman, her assets and her children were the property of her husband. Brontë's heroine, Helen Huntingdon, defies the law by fleeing an alcoholic husband and going into hiding incognito with her small son.
The story of Helen's horrific marriage is central to the plot, but the multi-layered narrative also offers us a thrilling love story replete with charm, anguish, suspense and humor.
I loved the introduction, but as it analyzes the plot, I'd suggest reading it after the book. The editor's discussion of Brontë's controversial themes is quite fascinating.
I loved the footnotes too! Without them you might not notice that Brontë's prose is subtly laced with biblical allusions. Whether joking, flirting or fighting, the characters are constantly quoting Matthew, Mark, Luke, Genesis, Galatians, Ephesians, Isiah and the Psalms.
But even Brontë's heartfelt theology came under attack by her contemporaries. Her belief in universal salvation (sinners would eventually get into heaven) was considered "false and bad."
The Broadview edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an absolute gem. I recommend it over all others.