Carol said I must list my all time favorite books What a challenge this is I have read everything those Bronte girls wrote, even their childhood poetry and I love all of it But Anne will take the showing on my list for her bravery Of course Charlotte was the most prolific and Emily the true brainiac, but Anne has my complete respect for being a true literary pioneer she was the first woman to write of a wife leaving her abusive husband and then goes on to lead a happy, successful life Up to this point, any woman who left her husband met some type of horrific demise At one point in the novel she slams the door on her husband and feminists claim it was the door slam heard around the world Critics were and still are harsh toward Anne because of the structure of the novel she hides, somewhat, behind the devices of letters and diaries they claim, and I agree, that her tale would have beenpowerful had she faced her reader without these BUT, let s give Anne a big break, she did a truly brave and unprecedented move here, so if she hid a bit behind a lengthy dairy entry, I will forgive her and relish in the power this tale gives women We owe Anne quite a bit, so read this great story with a forgiving heart and when you finish, thank her because she is one of our noble literary grandmothers. Bravissima, Bront There is a straight logical line leading from the brilliant fiction of Anne Bront , written in 1847, to Margaret Atwood s equally persuasive The Handmaid s Tale of our own era Eloquent, erudite, witty women describe what makes patriarchal, Christian society brutally unjust to any woman of feeling and intelligence, and not just in extreme cases, but in its core idea of women s roles and choice lessness their suppressed individual right to self defined sexuality and their denied financial and judicial independence.It is the eternal story of beautiful, smart Helen She is 18 years old, and she feels attracted to a typical bad guy, Arthur Huntingdon In a modern, liberal, democratic and equal society, she will have an affair with him during her teenage years, then she will get over the butterflies, leave him and embark on another adventure during her years of professional emancipation and training, possibly with less disgusting Mr Hargrave When she realises that he isn t her type either, she will break up again and eventually find her Mr Markham, marry him and have children while pursuing her professional career Possibly, the marriage will work out, and they will live through ups and downs and stay together Or they might divorce and go their separate ways again, on equal terms.But this is not the kind of society Helen is born into She is brainwashed with a genuine fear of Hell, and a wish to earn her place in Heaven by suffering humiliation and degradation in this life rather than going against the inconsistent Church teachings which even believers fail to explain in the course of the narrative, thus creating involuntarily comical effects by discussing the sadness they feel that they won t be loving each other in the same read physical, sexual way if they are united in Heaven, rather than on Earth.So Helen, cursed with being born into the wrong society, has to suffer when she feels her first sexual desire, and she decides to marry the scoundrel that crosses her path, and then to endure his entitlement and misogynistic attacks for years Both she and her infernal husband consider her his property They are one single entity, with him being the head, and her being the body to be used and discarded at the head s pleasure Only when she realises he might turn her 5 year old son into an alcoholic, she runs away and lives against current law in hiding in a remote place, quietly suffering the gossip of the village that shows no mercy for a young woman on her own, and produces such a flood of fake news regarding her behaviour that the reader would have fallen into despair, had she not been schooled in the post truth era Bront seems to have lived in a pre truth era, which leaves the reader wondering when truth was ever spoken.When the monstrous husband is deserted by his second lover and fatally ill from an accident, the saintly woman returns to do her Christian duty and nurse him until he finally, mercifully dies by the hand of the caring author, who knows the reader needs poetical justice after such suffering and pain The beautiful Helen is rewarded for her consistency and sexual restraint by marrying the valiant knight who waited for her without assaulting her in the meantime, and without calling her ungrateful for daring not to love him, as the not so valiant Hargrave did Rejected men are dangerous, as we know The highest prize for a devout woman AD 1847 is to marry an apple that is not rotten through and through.Helen undoubtedly is stronger andindependent than most women of her times, and yet she mirrors the horror of conventional Christianity in combination with patriarchy Being an intelligent, passionate woman with natural desires, she should have been allowed a choice at every step of her development as it is, the reader can only bow to the powerful narrative in the voice of a woman who dared to show the injustice and absurdity of her times, writing for both men and women, as she stated in the preface.Wild One In the best possible sense Reformed rakes make the best husbandsThis is the maxim that governs the universe of historical romance novels That a puerile assumption regarding dissolute cads turning into paragons of puritanical goodness on being administered the vital dosage of a virgin s love fuels women s fantasies in this day and age depresses me to no end In a sense, this is the dialectical opposite of Kerouac s On the Road in that it systematically demystifies a contrived notion of masculinecoolnessthe bastard child of a vile solipsism and unchecked aggression that the latter romanticized Women writers of today, particularly those who are laughing all the way to the bank by mass producing this unforgivable blather, wake the hell up The youngest Bront sister saw the evil the cult of machismo breeds in young male children and portrayed it without inhibitions, without holding anything back 150 years ago What are you still waiting for It is all very well to talk about noble resistance, and trials of virtue but for fifty or five hundred men that have yielded to temptation, show me one that has had virtue to resist And why should I take it for granted that my son will be one in a thousand and not rather prepare for the worst, and suppose he will be like this like the rest of mankind, unless I take care to prevent itReading this nearly made me experience that same nightmare that is encapsulated in Atwood s The Handmaid s Tale Of course the horrors that Atwood delineated with an unsettling composure make you break out in gooseflesh while Helen s traumatic experiences are merely unpleasant But there s the same sick feeling of being held against one s will, the same revulsion that threatens to overshadow all other emotions A blow by blow account of an abusive marriage and a woman being condemned to tolerating a melee hosted by drunken, wife and child abusing reprobates day after infuriating day, year after agonizing year will do that to you Especially when this picture of oppression is completed by the inexorable professions of love from overenthused admirers who do not take the matter of consent all that seriously Does that seem harrowing enough Marriage may change your circumstances for the better, but, in my private opinion, it is farlikely to produce a contrary result. That I am choosing to hold back a star is because Anne s writing lacks Emily s verve and Charlotte s intellectual rigour and that certain something which makes one wish to prolong the act of reading a book Her characterization is a bit wobbly as Helen is inconsistent throughout the length of the novel she is stringently insular against Gilbert s growing affection for her and suddenly she isn t, she secures an escape route from her husband s den of debauchery and suddenly returns to that same hell when he is dying in an act of Christian compassion Besides the repeated attempts at making doctrinal virtue a crutch on which to balance her self assertion wearied me Yes yes this was the Victorian era, I understand The narrative is a bit lacking in an overall structural integrity This is particularly evident in the presence of certain generic plot devices and cliches that Anne employs to effect a reconciliation between Gilbert and Helen I would have been most happy if Gilbert had just been a mildly nosy townsman narrating the events because as a character he may not have been there at all P.S Mary A Ward s introduction mentions how Branwell s alcoholism and reckless behaviour inspired Emily and Anne Bront to recreate the same kind of violence in their fiction Heathcliff and Huntingdon were the results. An unknown woman suddenly appears in the dilapidated mansion, Wildfell Hall, abandoned for many years, by the wealthy family, who owned it, as uninhabitable, surrounded by the bleak moorlands, in a remote, quiet village, in the northern English countryside, during the early part of the 19th century, no one knew she was coming, the locals are very curious, who is she What is she doing, calling herself Mrs.Graham, a widow, with a lively five year old boy, Arthur The villagers distrust outsiders, the gloomy, dismal, cold, Wildfell Hall, is not fit to live, only a couple of rooms are fixed, and just loyal, old servant Rachel, to assist, there is a mystery to be solved The son of a late gentleman farmer, Gilbert Markham, a neighbor, is smitten by Helen Graham, her beauty, poise, intelligence, good manners, and still young, about 25, around the same age as he Going to see Mrs.Graham often, any excuse will do, being a friendly, good neighbor, bringing a book, giving her son a puppy, finally declaring his undying love, but Helen rejects him, it is not possible any future between the couple, some enigma, from the past, that remains unexplained and Gilbert shouldn t come any, it is upsetting her feelings The unusually independent woman, rare in those days, makes a modest living, painting and selling beautiful, vividly colored, landscapes But scandalous rumors drench the area, destroying her reputation, that Mrs.Graham was never married, that her landlord Frederick Lawrence, a frequent visitor, is the spitting image of her son, Arthur, even the local amiable vicar, stays away from the lady The jealous, confused, hot tempered, Gilbert, neglects his family, a loving mother, younger brother, rather lazy, the witty, Fergus, pretty, sweet, sister, Rose, and especially the farm Mr.Markham becomes a peeping Tom, hiding in the bushes, and behind trees, outside Wildfell Hall, spying on Mrs.Graham, witnessing the affections of Mr Lawrence and Helen, with his own eyes, towards each other, so the rumors are valid The out of control Gilbert, seething with tremendous anger, deep jealousy, and extreme hate, attacks his friend, Mr Lawrence, unprovoked, with a heavy whip, on horseback, striking his head, causing much blood to spill, falling down from his animal, on a muddy, wet, lonely road, the badly injured Frederick is stunned, why The rains pour over the prone body, the somewhat remorseful, moody, Mr.Markham, tries to help, but soon leaves his victim to fend for himself, and rides awayLater Mrs.Graham gives Gilbert her secret diary, to read, it is a troubled past, she has experienced, full of unbelievable torment, suffering and abuse, her little son in the middle, not comprehending any of it, thank God, but she must escape this environment, or the child will also be marked for life, and the mother can not let this happenA superior work, this indictment, of the lack of freedom , that women in England had, during that harsh era, what they went through, so much mistreatment, little rights Anne Bronte, shows the world that she was as talented a writer, as her big sisters. What a surprisingly good read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was.I think when you read a Classic like this you have to immerse yourself in the time when it was written and this one goes back to the mid 1840s, a time when the pace of life was slower, and when there was no Television or social media and a time when snail mail and word of mouth were the facebook and twitter of the time I think if you have the ability to do this you would love and enjoy this novel as I am sure this was a rocking good read for any reader back in 1848.The novel is divided into three volumes and begins with the arrival of the beautiful and mysterious Mrs Graham in a sleepy country neighborhood Mrs Graham causes quite a stir as she gives the country folk something new to talk and gossip about but the talk soon turns to nasty rumors about her and her son The book s setting is the English country side with its isolated sprawling manors, rugged good looking gentlemen and cackle of young women on the hunt for well to do husbands.The story is edgy and fresh for its time with likable and dislikable characters and a plot that was suprisingly engrossing The writting is descriptive but very readable and while I read this one at a slower pace than normal I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with this classic So if you enjoy classic literature, but have been putting this one off I advise putting it on your winter reading list, cosy up by the fire and take yourself back in time to get the best out of this book. Some movies are really pretty bad except for one transcendent performance, Sophie s Choice for instance The glittering pallid Meryl Streep is just brilliant whilst the movie itself is a bit of a pain Same with novels The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a game of three halves For the first 100 pages the tiresomely earnest Gilbert Markham tells his tale of how he fell in love with the new lady tenant of the crumbling hall and how she drove him crazy with her intense mysteriousness and this is all very well but the next 200 pages is the diary of the said lady and wow.Helen Graham s own story is fierce and scintillatingly told It s of how she set her cap for this beautiful bad boy and got all married to him with everyone telling her it was a terrible mistake, and how little by little, she found herself living a life of horror no, there was never any physical violence, but there were all the colours of the rainbow of psychological violence, beginning with the speed his originally perfectly sincere love and lust dwindled away, and how his excursions to London with his old rakish buddies began to take longer and longer, and how the wine and spirits becameandnoticeable, and how eventually he would openly flaunt his affairs in front of her, inviting his latest girlfriend as a houseguest for weeks on end, and she not allowed to say one word, for propriety s sake All this in excruciating detail, with the screws tightened on each succeeding page Another part of the genius of this section is that Helen herself is self revelatingly skewered I hope this was Anne Bronte s intention Because Helen is a religious obsessive and we have to say really sanctimonious and frankly isthan a bit of a pain in the neck She seems to know the Bible backwards and inside out always has a handy quote from the second epistle of Samson to the Troglodytes or the book of Maccabees Victims of patriarchal oppression are not by this sad circumstance necessarily loveable themselves But the awfulness of the 100% possession of the wife and her money and her property by her husband is a terrifying vision You can see arbitrary oppression running through many 19th century novels Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, Caleb Williams, etc And here it takes place not in the gory dungeons but in the mimsiest, most doily infested of drawing rooms For many women, marriage was an invisible prison Alas when that part of the narrative closes we are back to Gilbert for thepredictable conclusion to the story and here it is the 21st century reader who might find themselves a trifle oppressed, by the jawbreaking circumlocutious language and the interminable periphrasing Gilbert uses fifteen ten dollar words just to tell you he walked down a street The central 200 pages of Helen s diary are a 5 star read But the first and last sections drag this novel down, down, down With regret, I have to say overall, 3.5 stars.AND NOW, A SHORT ONE ACT PLAY ENTITLEDTHE BRONTESAURUS It is late September 1848, the drawing room of the Parsonage at Haworth, home of the Bronte family The sisters are discussing literature in between bouts of coughing Bramwell lies dead behind the sofa.Charlotte Oh come on, you totally stole from Jane Eyre, admit it Emily Oh shove off See that stain on the ceiling there That s Jane Eyre Wuthering Heights now, that s massive 120% original Heathcliff, Cathy boom Already a classic.Charlotte Yeah well, it s a pity all the critics think you belong in the loony bin Anne Wait a moment, dear sisters, whilst I perform a mental calculation Agnes Grey, that s one Tenant of Wildfell Hall, that s two So that s Anne v Charlotte, two one, and Anne v Emily, er, oh Two one again That s called winning, you know Charlotte Oh shut up Anne.Emily Yeah, shut up Anne Anne How very vulgar, but of course no surprise.Charlotte And anyway, since we re on the subject, Jane Eyre, right, she s a governess, right, and your Agnes Grey, what is she then Oh, wait, a governess And which one was published first Oh, ME that s who, me You ripped me off I m going to sue your backside Anne Then I ll see you in court any day soon, dear sister I think you ll find you have no copyright on the word governess There sthan one oppressed governess in merry England Just like there sthan one house Are you going to sue us because our characters live in houses Emily Oh shut up Anne Drone drone drone just like your feeble novels Just because you don t know when to stop writingThey all pause to cough, then resume arguing Note Editions Of The Tenant That Start With You Must Go Back With Me Are Incomplete Actual Opening Line Of The Novel Is To J Halford, Esq Dear Halford, When We Were Together Last This Is The Story Of A Woman S Struggle For Independence Helen Graham Has Returned To Wildfell Hall In Flight From A Disastrous Marriage Exiled To The Desolate Moorland Mansion, She Adopts An Assumed Name And Earns Her Living As A Painter An autobiographical novel that shocked society at the time, it mainly addresses the problems caused by alcoholism and debauchery and the struggle of women to achieve equal rights Gilbert Markham is deeply attached to Helen, a woman who has a reputation for being immoral and hiding an obscure past, which he always tries to defend even if he does not know the truth Only with the passage of time Helen gains confidence and ends up revealing her sad past, badly treated and badly loved by an alcoholic and adulterous husband who enjoyed his religion Although she struggles for her independence, Helen is still under the power of the husband from whom alone death will free her. 4.5 stars Move over, Charlotte Make room for my new favorite Bront It is inevitable for me to compare Anne Bront with her sisters, and Helen Graham with Jane Eyre particularly, but I shall momentarily do so anyway Some said this was better than any Bront novel published, some claimed it deeply overhyped After reading this, I shall have to agree with the former claim as I thought this book surpassed, to quite an extent, the love I had for Jane Eyre.The Tenant of Wildfell Hall shook me from the first page, when I discovered that rather than the conventional female perspective, the narrative opens with a letter penned by a male protagonist, Gilbert Markham I am not the biggest fan of framed stories but this one was deeply engaging all the way through Through Gilbert s letter, we then dive into Helen s diaries and her life, which forms the majority of the novel.Helen Graham is by far of the strongest female protagonist I have ever had the pleasure of reading about It s not simply because she has been through an abusive relationship and needs to be pitied, but because she bears through a lot of nonsense from her husband with such grace that there were points at which I was infuriated at her calmness She takes everything in strides, my bliss is sobered, but not destroyed my hopes diminished, but not departed my fears increased, but not yet throughly confirmed While this sort of pacifism is clearly harmful to her and her son s existence, in reality, I have a difficult time criticizing her for bearing through so much before she finally decided to do what was right In such cases, things were most certainly easier said than done So though I was angered by her mild reactions at times, I cannot fault her in her decisions because I cannot claim something as definitively right or wrong given that I haven t been through any sort of similar experience as she.But generally though, how could I not love Anne for shaping a character that is constantly being tested and yet never letting that deteriorate her from her and her son s happiness In the end, I would ve completely understood Helen if she had given up on everything in life, on striving to make peace, but in the end she doesn t let anyone destroy her existence And I just had to sit back and admire that for a moment Her patience was tested bythan just one character, and multiple times throughout, but she always responds in a clear, sensible manner Her hushed posture can easily be misconstrued for indifference by readers but I don t think she is indifferent to anything, merely aware of the prejudices against her and cynical of her environment because of it.I cannot say whether I really liked or disliked Gilbert Markham, but I have to argue that I was somewhat disappointed that we did not get to see a lot of interaction between him and Helen once the story is coming to an end Given all that Helen has gone through by the end of her diaries, I expected her to be a bitcautious with her affections Similarly, I was also a bit unsatisfied with the ending of Jane Eyre so I suppose it s something that I will eventually have to get past.And lastly, of course, the controversial aspect of this novel, and what makes it so fantastic, is Helen s relationship with her husband Anne Bront is unflinchingly honest in her depiction of alcoholism and how that leads to an abusive marriage She is ruthless in her assertion of how women are shoved into a corner without a voice, abused, mistreated, and exploited in their silence Bront writes things which are hard to read about, but even harder to comprehend as the realities of women then, and now Despite knowing that all of these things still continue to happen in our society, and how much for the sake of propriety we force women into mute beings, Bront still managed to craft some sentences which punched me right in the gut.How could I not love something like this Find the full sized image here. Before we discovered Anne Bront , some of us fancied Heathcliff We wanted to fix him, tame him, soothe his tortured soul Or maybe if you preferred themature and experienced man, you craved Mr Rochester Perhaps you were even hanging out of your bedroom window on stormy nights, convinced that someone somewhere was calling to you.Not anyIt s time to ditch those Byronic heroes, everyone Nomad, bad and dangerous to know , only sober, honest men brimming with common sense from now on.Wow This woman was such a literary pioneer Who else can you name that effortlessly tackles marital abuse, marital rape, alcoholism, drug addiction, infant custody and female self determination all in one book Anne Bront the feminist writer we need but truly don t deserve.This merits a bad ass Bront strut The Tenant of Wildfell Hall certainly reflects the religious orthodoxy of the time The emphasis on repentance may feel slightly archaic and outdated to the modern audience reading from asecular society, but I don t think anyone can deny that it is superbly charged throughout with Anne s beautiful belief in universal salvation, a quality that may very well never genuinely grace our pages again Nevertheless, her boldness, brutal honesty and eloquence in proclaiming equality is timeless This is a stunning, completely unflinching examination of marriage and its abuse The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is said to be the first sustained feminist novel Winifred G rin even dubbed it the first manifesto for Women s Lib Now, that s a high honour and the novel is entirely deserving of it It caused absolute scandal when it was first published in 1847, selling out in just 6 weeks, yep, that s faster than both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights which makes Anne the most successful of the sisters during their lifetimes So, why the scandal Well, Anne depicts a woman who 1 Leaves her womanizing, alcoholic and abusive husband2 to make her own independent living 3 and takes her son with her.Let s clarify that in context in 1847 this wasn t just unusual it was illegal Women were wholly subject to the control of their husband They could not own property or seek a divorce They didn t even have true possession of their children.I would say fun fact , but it really, really isn t marital rape was actually completely legal util 1991 So just imagine how shocking it was to contemporary readers when Helen the at times sanctimonious heroine refuses to have sex with her husband one drunken night, locking herself away in her bedroom If this was effectively denying conjugal rights as recently as 1990, you can imagine how scandalous this was in 1847 Mary Sinclair commented in 1913 how the slamming of Helen Huntington s bedroom door against her husband reverberated through Victorian England And I guess she must have slammed that door pretty hard, because Charlotte Bront refused to sanction further editions of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall after Anne s death in 1849 In fact, it wasn t printed again officially until 1859, and that fly by night edition was butchered it was ruthlessly edited to squish the intended three volume novel into just one Now, it s debatable as to whether Charlotte did this as a bit of bitchy revenge out of jealousy for Anne s success, or if she was just terrified of public opprobrium but either way it sucked that she did it at all Anne however was not fussed about the scandal she d caused She wanted to prove a point this is a campaigning novel In the scalding preface to the second edition in which she defended herself, she said I wished to tell the truth for truth always conveys its own moral. Amen The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was written in deliberate protest against the social conventions of the time Anne wrote from personal experience witnessing her brother Branwell deteriorate into alcoholism and drug addiction, having had a disastrous affair with the wife of the employer he shared with Anne She had him secured the position as a personal tutor, herself already being the family s governess As a result, she felt responsible for Branwell s devolution Essentially, she wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as a warning she wanted to save others from the same fate, cautioning young men about the consequences of excess and enlightening young women of the perils of bad men.I think in many ways I respected this novelthan I enjoyed it Rather than being plot driven, it s very much introspective The romance is a lukewarm at best and there s not the slightest whiff of anything supernatural Maybe that s part of the reason why Anne s work isn t as well remembered as Emily s or Charlotte s that, andcrucially, she refused to glamorize an oppressive man Arthur Huntington is not a romanticized, brooding Byronic hero he s an arsehole And Anne tells us that blatantly well, words to that effect, anyway living with a self destructive husband is not thrilling or exciting, not even in theory.Anne Bront is possibly the most underestimated voice in English literature George Moore endowed her with the less than flattering epithet of a literary Cinderella , always in the shadow of her two sisters But she is not in their shadow because of an inferior intellect, as so many critics have claimed And prowess is not necessarily measured by endurance If only she had lived longer, she would ve been able to defend her work from both the hostile critics and she d already done this once andimportantly, from her sister Charlotte Anyone poised to attack me with the specious argument that Anne was also the least spirited of the sisters should seriously reevaluate that claim this remorseless attack of social convention completely and utterly belies that image of docile, pensive Anne.The result of Charlotte s interference Anne s not on the school curriculum You probably won t be forced to read her stuff for an exam, even at university level But I strongly urge you to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall of your own volition An incredible novel subversive, compelling, refreshing and, sadly, relevant.