I finally picked it up last week & it has turned out to be a very timely read with regard to Australian politics.
Our new Prime Minister has spent this past week getting tough on domestic violence, stating that it is ‘un-Australian’ to disrespect women. Words, and their underlying assumptions and prejudices play a major role in why one in six Australian women still experience domestic violence in these ‘enlightened’ times.
So it was with a growing sense of frustration that I read about the plight of Anne Bronte’s, Helen.
My frustration existed on two fronts.
The frustration of watching a young naive woman make a bad choice and then blaming herself for the faults of the man.
And the frustration of realising how very little has changed in three hundred years when it comes to (some) men using their power over women in the domestic sphere.
There was also much to love about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, including my lovely Penguin English Library edition with it’s picturesque cover and it’s discussion by Winifred Gerin…at the back of the book.
Yes, oh joy, at the back of the book!
Not at the front of the book where the risk is high for spoilers, but at the back where ones love for the book can be continued on by thinking about it more deeply and comparing our thoughts with others.
In this case it was nice to have my views about the diary section of the novel validated by someone else. As Gerin said TTOWH’s
“weakness lies in the structure, in the clumsy device of a plot within a plot….By the device of the diary the drama that wrecked Helen’s life is seen at one remove, not in the heat of the action.”
I really struggled with this section and at one point nearly abandoned the book. It was such a clumsy way to tell us Helen’s backstory.
But I’m glad I persisted.
When the story eventually returned to the original timeline, a satisfying romance developed with just the right amount of tension and suspence.
Anne Bronte is a born story-teller with a lot to say about the position of women in society, their education and expectations – from the ingenue to the sophisticated flirt, the pious to the amoral. The secondary characters are interesting and well developed and the Cumbrian landscape not only comes alive with Bronte’s many descriptions but also through Helen’s paintings.
Bring on Agnes Grey!
Do you have a favourite Bronte?
This review is part of my Reading England challenge and Classics Club list.