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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Anne Brontë – Agnes Grey

I realised recently that I have never read anything by Anne Brontë, and I decided that I had to remedy that situation. She seems to be the most overlooked of the Brontë sisters, hidden away behind her sister’s bigger novels; Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

But I’m not entirely sure why, as I found this book utterly delightful. You can tell more from this book than from Charlotte or Emily that the Brontë’s were daughters of a Pastor as there are definite Christian themes to the book.

In the book, Agnes is the daughter of a Pastor who has lost the family money and is now become quite ill. Agnes decides that she will become a governess in order to earn some money to keep the family afloat, and despite having no prior experience, she finally persuades her family to let her set out into the world.

The first family she finds are appallingly behaved and poor Agnes almost cannot bear it, but she is determined not to quit as she knows how important the money is, and doesn’t want to think of what people will think of her if she does. But when the family tell her she is no longer needed, you can feel the relief pouring out of the pages.

The second family that Agnes ends up with is barely better, but she is a little older now (as are the children under her care) and has some experience, so she can tolerate it much better. And it is here that we are introduced to her love interest: the curate at the local Church.

It would hardly be a romance novel if there wasn’t some turbulence, and when Agnes has to leave the children and return home to her mother, and then Mr Weston moves away from the village too, it seems like that will be it for the doomed lovebirds.

But we all like a happy ending, and of course this has one. My only problem was that the ‘happy ending’ was too close to the end, and it felt like we were cut off without seeing their relationship flourish, in fact when it has really only just begun. Being the daughter of a Pastor, potentially she thought she had to keep control over her writing, but the romance did lack a bit of the fire and passion that you feel from Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

The book to me is more of a look at society and and the smokescreen of civilization used by the upper-classes at that time – which Anne will have had first hand experience of as she herself was a governess. We learn more about Anne’s opinions of humankind that we do of Agnes, the main character in the book, which is probably why her own relationship takes a back-seat to the observations of the others.

I’d love to read this book again, and will definitely be looking for more of Anne’s books throughout the year. It seems like ages since I’ve read the Brontë’s and Austen etc, and I love it so much!

Just a snippet of some of the more ‘religious’ parts of the book, which may surprise you if you weren’t expecting it in a Brontë novel:

“‘Well’, says he, ‘you know the first and greatest commandment – and the second, which is like unto it – on which two commandments hang all the law and the prophets? You say you cannot love God, but it strikes me that if you rightly consider who and what He is, you cannot help it. He is your father, your best friend: every blessing, everything good, pleasant, or useful, comes from Him: and everything evil, everything you have reason to hate, to shun, or to fear, comes from Satan – His enemy as well as ours. And for this cause was God manifest in the flesh, that He might destroy the works of the Devil: in one word, God is love, and the more of love we have within us, the nearer we are to Him and the more of His spirit we possess.'”

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