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Reviews of Agnes Grey (1847)

Review by rinabeana (2006-05-29) Contains spoilers. View anyway.

I have to say that I was rather disappointed with Agnes Grey. I found it excessively boring with no plot to speak of.

Basically this seemed to be an endless description of the awful charges governess Agnes Grey has to endure. Her first set of children are young, unruly, undisciplined, and unmanageable. Her second set of children are teenagers, unruly, undisciplined, and unmanageable. I'd say that for at least 3/4 of the book there is no plot whatsoever. The entire episode with the first family was pointless. The second family wasn't much better until Agnes magically fell in love with the curate Mr. Weston, the only (non-indigent) person in the community who exhibited any nice qualities. Finally, Agnes gets to leave because her father dies and she and her mother get to start a school. Naturally, Mr. Weston, who she'd been pining after, turns up as the rector at a neighboring parish. On the second-to-last page of the book he proposes. Hooray.

I realize I sound rather bitter about this, but I'm a huge Brontė fan. I liked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and I can't understand why Agnes Grey is the more recognized book of Anne's. It would seem that she hated being a governess and just wrote this novel as a tirade against the people for whom she worked. I have to say that I didn't particularly enjoy it and I only finished it because I'm not one to quit a book in the middle.

One small redeeming quality was that Agnes seemed to be quite snarky at times. She had thoughts about other people that it certainly wouldn't have been proper for her to say aloud. I had to snicker on occasion. (This did not make up for the lack of plot, however.)

I came across one passage that I thought it worthwhile to remember:

"We often pity the poor because they have no leisure to mourn their departed relatives, and necessity obliges them to labour through their severest afflictions; but is not active employment the best remedy for overwhelming sorrow, the surest antidote for despair? It may be a rough comforter, it may seem hard to be harassed with the cares of life when we have no relish for its enjoyments, to be goaded to labour when the heart is ready to break, and the vexed spirit implores for rest only to weep in silence; but is not labour better than the rest we covet? and are not those petty, tormenting cares less hurtful than a continual brooding over the great affliction that oppresses us? Besides, we cannot have cares, and anxieties, and toil, without hope--if it be but the hope of fulfilling our joyless task, accomplishing some needful project, or escaping some further annoyance."
--Chapter XX

So, sadly, I really don't recommend this book, unless you're a Brontė completist.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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