19 February 2016

Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Reviewer: Kayla
Author: Anne Brontë
Pages: 488
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 8/10

Summary (Goodreads. Da real MVP):

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past.

Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerfully involving read.

My Thoughts:

"First study, then approve; then love. Let your eyes be blind to all external attractions, your ears deaf to all the fascinations of flattery and light discourse"

I read this novel for my seminar class (and I have to do a seminar presentation on it please help me), but overall I actually enjoyed this book, which I was surprised about.

When I first started it, I got the old school, classic Nicholas Sparks vibe - romance, child in the mix, tragic history, something keeping them apart but they end up getting together anyway, death. You know all that good stuff. The storyline was interesting and I was really intrigued at the glimpse of the Victorian era we get through the characters. The writing was beautiful and I seem to like Anne Brontë's style better than Emily's (only having read Wuthering Heights). I found this novel much easier to follow and less dense. While there were some parts of Wuthering Heights that I enjoyed better than Tenant, I overall enjoyed the experience and writing of Tenant better.

To sum up the book, a woman and her child come to Wildfell Hall, which have the neighbouring residents curious and nosy. Our main fellow, Gilbert Markham, is the less sinister of the bunch, and rather than being suspicious and extremely negative toward the newcomer, he comes to fall deeply in love with her. The middle of the novel embodies Helen's story and how she ended up coming to tenancy of Wildfell. We learn about the injustices that have been against her, as well as her selfish, rude, drunk husband Arthur Huntingdon. We learn of her story, digression, and how she stood up for herself and her son and got out of the situation. I'll leave the ending to your imagination -- or for those of you who want to pick this book up, I will not spoil it.

As a feminist, I read this with a feminist lens and critical point of view. Helen was unlike any of the other female characters in the novel. She was stubborn (in a good way) and held firm in her thoughts, opinions, and beliefs among all things including patriarchy, child-bearing, religion, etc. She was the voice of reason for many characters, as well as a woman who did not deserve any of the misfortunes that befell her (unlike Catherine from W.H but that's another review/discussion in itself). I loved the relationships she made with almost all the characters, (except Arthur, I have some disagreements about that one, especially toward the end of the book) and she stayed true to herself throughout the entirety of the novel. Though she had to drastically change herself in order to fulfill the duties of her newfound roles she has been introduced to, her overall demeanour and character did not change, which I truly admired.

Arthur Huntingdon, while we were supposed to despise, I actually liked as an antagonist. He knew just the right buttons to push and the right things to say to set Helen off. I feel like there is more to his character than just an uncaring drunk who imprisoned his wife and child, as though there is something beneath his tough exterior that made him be this way. I wish we would have gotten a sense of his past, from childhood to adolescence, to see what influenced him to become this sort of monster. If reading a multitude of books has proven anything to me about evil people, is that there is always an underlying cause to their torment and acting out. This may just be the psychoanalyst perspective I'm putting into play here, but this could be interesting for my seminar.

From start to finish, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of Gilbert Markham. He seemed innocent enough, but he does do some things that makes me question his character and the goodness in him (aka he almost killed someone out of jealousy like ok relax). He seemed creepily obsessed with Helen and always asked about her and what she was doing, how she was feeling. I can understand that his being in love with her would make these questions rise, but it got exceedingly annoying and borderline stalkerish. Especially the one of the last scenes (aka where he goes to her house and literally stands there watching it but refuses to go inside?). Either way, he was the best option for Helen in the end, giving her the happy ending she's always wanted and deserved.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I enjoyed this book and can appreciate all opinions of it. I know there is a deeper rooted meaning, symbolism, and analysis to this novel that I am going to have to explore. I feel like if I did not have to pay such close attention, make notes, and think about a seminar presentation while reading this book, I would have given it a five stars. That may not be entirely fair, since I know if I read this for pleasure it would have gotten 5/5, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

1 comment:

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