Review: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, Penguin Classics Edition, 1847, 251p.

4 out of 5 stars

So… this is a very belated and short review of Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. I read Agnes months ago, enjoyed it, but never got around to my review. Usually, I wouldn’t bother reviewing so late, but I am making an effort to review all my Classics Club books.

This is my favourite work from the Bronte sisters that I have read so far. Jane Eyre was enjoyable and interesting if long winded, while Wuthering Heights nearly drove me to suicide. I was a bit worried when approaching Aggie, but I dove in headfirst.

There’s something intriguing about Agnes’ character. I identified with her, and thought she was very well written. She is certainly a product of her time, and reading this book as a historical text is really interesting. I think that I will take the time in the future to reread this text and try and dig a little deeper into the social context that is so interesting.

As a commentary on religion at the time, Agnes Grey is really telling. It’s so different from how we regard religion in common times, and as an atheist, seeing how religion is disseminated into all aspects of life is interesting and slightly scary. The romantic interest is deeply entwined in the church and that is strange because I don’t think you see that in mainstream modern novels.

I enjoyed Agnes Grey, but I wasn’t blown away by it. I will be looking for other works by Anne Bronte, because I enjoyed her writing style.

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6 comments

  1. I want to reread this one too at some point. I don’t feel like I got it all on a first pass. What I loved about it is Anne doesn’t romanticize, and she doesn’t flinch. She says, “Here’s the situation for governesses, and it’s appalling.” The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is really impressive for a similar reason, only the topic is mothers married to drunk husbands, and how keeping children safe in such a situation is considered stealing the father’s property, and that’s appalling. She basically says, “Oh really? Heathcliff and Rochester are romantic? How about we take a peek at the reality of a guy like that, and the reality of marrying a guy like that?”

    I think Anne was still figuring out her voice when she wrote (especially evident in Agnes Grey, I think). Tenant is far more polished, but I feel like (as strong as Tenant is) she had something monumental in her which she’d not yet found when she died. We can see it forming in her two novels. If she’d lived! I feel like she was strong and had something mighty to say.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jillian. I agree with you, I think Anne was taken from us too soon, because she probably did have so much more to say. Like you, I imagine I will revisit this one some time in my future – maybe when I’m a little more comfortable reading books from this era. I’m adding Tenant to that slowly growing list of classics to put on my next classics club challenge list.

      I really love it when books explore the realities of marriage – I just finished The Awakening which made me nod my head and get so angry at times – so Tenant does sound truly magical.

      Also, the more we discuss classics with one another, the more I feel like you were born to read My Brilliant Career. I know I’ve bugged you about it before, but seriously… its one of my favourites and if Miles Franklin had been older or better able to get publicity outside of Australia I feel like it would be a well renown classic.

      1. Have you read Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”? That’s probably my favorite short story. It’s available online for free, and maybe takes five minutes to read. I need to reread The Awakening. It’s been a couple years since I last read it, but yes, me too about nodding my head.

        Okay, you’ve convinced me: I’ll read My Brilliant Career. I love it that we can encourage one another to read those books which might otherwise slip away. x

      2. I haven’t read Chopin’s The Story of an Hour, but I actually have it in the edition of The Awakening that I read, so I’ll certainly check it out!

        You can get a copy of My Brilliant Career for free around the internet as well – there is a movie version which is a little rubbish, if you ask me, but lots of people hail it as a classic. It also has Judy Davis doing a terrible Australian accent.

        It’s my favourite thing about this book community – it has broadened my horizons so much.

  2. A lot of my family who have read all three of the Brontë sisters work usually say Jane eyre is a winner, and Emily’s wuthering heights is ‘to hard to get into, and heavy’, and discards Anne’s work all together, but personally I love Anne’s work, and find it very peaceful (more Agnes grey that the tenant of wildfell hall), but wuthering heights has always been my fave, oddly, since I was 11 ( realise I had odd taste for an 11 year old 😂) and charlottes work is passionate, but very romance based and as you said log winded, though very beautiful. I need to reread the Brontës work again, it’s been a while. Lovely review, keep it up!! Xx

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