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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

by Anne Brontë

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (79)  French (2)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
I listened to this as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. It is still very relevant in many ways even if easy access to divorce may make it seem less so on superficial appearance. In fact, Helen's refusal to compromise her spiritual and moral principles are very similar to Jane Eyre's own refusal to do so. And I can see why it was controversial at the time, when women were expected to put up and shut up, regardless of the misery this might bring them. A very good read. ( )
  infjsarah | Jul 6, 2014 |
The Short of It:

A scandalous novel for its time.

The Rest of It:

Published in 1848, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall tells the story of Helen Graham, a woman whose unfortunate marriage forces her to make some difficult decisions for herself and her son.

This book has a little bit of everything to make a reader happy. There’s the scandalous story of Helen and her husband Author Huntingdon. Probably one of the most self-indulgent men you could ever meet. His love of drink and fine things leads them to financial ruin and Helen has no choice but to leave him, which of course is frowned upon greatly by society at large. She ends up at Wildfell Hall and introduces herself as a widow. She quickly becomes the infatuation of Gilbert, who lives across the way. A new, interesting woman that he can talk to. So unlike the frivolous girls he comes across daily. But when another man enters the picture, Gilbert questions her and in return, is handed her diary which tells her sordid tale.

Most of the story is told through diary entries. At first, I didn’t mind this but it went on for quite a long time and I began to lose interest in the story itself, but the real discussion is the history of the book itself. My book club picked this book for June and there was plenty to say about it. For one, Anne Bronte based many of the characters on people she knew, she wrote it under a pen name and it was originally published in three volumes, and when she passed away, her sister Charlotte refused its republication. It wasn’t until Charlotte’s death that it was published in one volume. Charlotte felt the book was “course” and not fit for publication.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an important book for many reasons. It deals with some very heavy themes for the time, gender relations, motherhood, alcoholism and abuse in marriage. Even though it was written in 1848, it has a very contemporary feel to it, probably because many of the issues Bronte includes are issues that we still deal with today.

The one criticism we all shared, was that the ending seemed rushed. Perhaps Bronte’s illness forced her to finish the book quickly or perhaps the book in its republication was cut down when made into one volume? What fascinated me the most was the Bronte family. Such talent and yet, so much tragedy. The three sisters all died from consumption and the brother became an alcoholic.

Overall, I am beginning to believe that I am more of a Bronte gal, than an Austen gal. Last year, I began Jane Eyre and have been reading it slowly (and loving it) and I must say The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was a refreshing surprise.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Jun 19, 2014 |
Wowzer. If you thought the characters in [b:Wuthering Heights|6185|Wuthering Heights|Emily Brontë|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165555437s/6185.jpg|1565818] were overly violent, unpleasant, and responsible for their own miseries, then I recommend that you stay away from this book.

The epistolary structure didn't do this book any favors, in my opinion, and since there was very little character development, I wasn't terribly invested in the characters' fates. I read online that Arthur Huntingdon was based on Branwell, though, which made me appreciate it a bit more. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
So much of this story paralleled my experience of marriage that it is hard to believe the author never was married or that it was written in a different age. Of course, the social customs are different in this story, but the human experience doesn't seem to change throughout the generations.

Helen Graham and her small son, along with one servant, arrive as tenants in Wildfell Hall and the county's residents are fascinated by her. She is purported to be a widow, but can we be sure? Tongues begin wagging as she is seen in the company of a single man, her landlord. Gilbert Markham, who has fallen in love with Helen, is loath to believe the rumors until he witnesses what he believes is a romantic encounter between Helen and the other man. Helen shares her journal with Gilbert and he learns her true story.

The bulk of the book is Helen's journal, which tells of a journey from the innocent, optimistic newlywed to a mature woman who chooses to take her child and flee from an intolerable marriage. Despite her aunt's warnings to keep her eyes open and make sure to marry a man who is upright and stable (and haven't many of us heard that same warning?), Helen believes she has found the ideal mate in Arthur Huntingdon. Although Arthur runs with a wild crowd, Helen is certain he will settle down once they are married and that she will be a positive influence on Arthur. As the years pass, and particularly after their child is born, Helen realizes that Arthur has not changed and may have become even worse. He drinks to excess, has affairs, and is verbally abusive toward his wife. His health begins to deteriorate. In the company of his friends, Helen becomes the butt of jokes, as the men consider her to be too pious and too much of a nag. Helen's main concern, however, is the influence of the men on her son.

Apparently early critics of this story found the depiction of the dysfunctional home too unsettling, and many feared the strong feminine character. In her introduction to the second edition, Bronte defends her novel as being true and says that society, women in particular, need to be made aware of the pitfalls of naivete. The character of Arthur Huntingdon does not resort to physical violence against his wife or child, which might have pushed the story over the edge to melodrama; the verbal abuse and mind games he plays are truer to life and so accurately wrought that they may actually be more effective in making the point.

Even though this book was written more than a century ago, it spoke to me on a personal level, and I imagine it would have a similar effect on a lot of modern readers. Although women certainly have more freedom and independence today, many of Helen's experiences still ring true. I myself wore rose-colored glasses into my marriage and experienced the disillusionment of finding my husband to be callous and unwilling to compromise. I too struggled with how to raise children to respect their father without becoming like him. I felt the same worries about how to support myself and my children if I should leave. It is likely that many modern readers have had similar experiences, because human nature doesn't change substantially, even if culture does. I found myself marking a lot of passages that had particular resonance for me:

Principle is the first thing, after all; and next to that, good sense, respectability, and moderate wealth. If you should marry the handsomest, and most accomplished and superficially agreeable man in the world, you little know the misery that would overwhelm you if, after all, you should find him to be a worthless reprobate, or even an impracticable fool.

+++

Arthur is not what is commonly called a bad man: he has many good qualities; but he is a man without self-restraint or lofty aspirations--a lover of pleasure, given up to animal enjoyments: he is not a bad husband, but his notion of matrimonial duties and comforts are not my notions.

+++

I had my darling, sinless, inoffensive little one to console me, but even this consolation was embittered by the constantly recurring thought, "How shall I teach him, hereafter, to respect his father, and yet to avoid his example?"

+++

Things that formerly shocked and disgusted me, now seem only natural. I know them to be wrong, because reason and God's word delcare them to be so; but I am gradually losing that instinctive horror and repulsion which was given me by nature, or instilled into me by the precepts and example of my aunt. Perhaps, then, I was too severe in my judgments, for I abhorred the sinner as well as the sin; now, I flatter myself I am more charitable and considerate, but am I not becoming more indifferent and insensate too? Fool that I was to dream I had strength and purity enough to save myself and him!

+++

...[H]ow shall I get through the months or years of my future life, in company with that man--my greatest enemy--for none could injure me as he has done? Oh! When I think how fondly, how foolishly I have loved him, how madly I have trusted him, and struggled for his advantage; and how cruelly he has trampled on my love, betrayed my trust, scorned my prayers and tears, and efforts for his preservation--crushed my hopes, destroyed my youth's best feelings, and doomed me to a life of hopeless misery--as far as man can do it--it is not enough to say that I no longer love my husband--I HATE him!

+++

...I have had nine weeks' experience of this new phase of conjugal life--two persons living together, as master and mistress of the house, and father and mother of a winsome, merry little child, with the mutual understanding that there is no love, friendship, or sympathy between them.

+++

I do not advise you to marry for love alone--there are many, many other things to be considered. Keep both heart and hand in your own possession, till you see good reason to part with them; and if such an occasion should never present itself, comfort your mind with this reflection: that, though in single life your joys may not be very many, your sorrows at least will not be more than you can bear.


The introduction to this volume emphasizes Bronte's theme of raising a child correctly, but my focus on reading was the experience of marriage. I believe this is an excellent portrait of a relationship gone wrong. If the novel has any weaknesses, I think they are in the framing story: the love affair between Gilbert and Helen does not seem as genuine, although Gilbert's relationship with little Arthur is illustrated beautifully, and Helen's return to nurse her sick husband seemed sudden and a little TOO pious. But these facets do allow for the story to have a happy ending, which I found satisfying.Overall, I loved this book and am glad I finally read one of the youngest Bronte sister's novels. ( )
2 vote glade1 | Jan 7, 2014 |
Why do people make out like the Brontes are all about love and marriage? This one's more or less about just how horrible 95% of the human species is. But also about how the other 5% make life worth living. Now if only there was a novel which would tell me into which class *I* fall... ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
"profane expressions, inconceivably coarse language, and revolting scenes and descriptions by which its pages are disfigured"
added by GYKM | editSharpe's London Magazine
 
"a morbid love for the coarse, not to say the brutal"
added by GYKM | editSpectator
 
"The reader of Acton Bell gains no enlarged view of mankind, giving a healthy action to his sympathies, but is confined to a narrow space of life, and held down, as it were, by main force, to witness the wolfish side of his nature literally and logically set forth."
added by GYKM | editNorth American Review
 

» Add other authors (57 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brontë, Anneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosengarten, HerbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stephens, IanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Mrs. HumphryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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You must go back with me to the autumn of 1827.
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Book description
A woman recounts her difficult marriage to an alcoholic and her battles with society's double standards when she leaves him, taking her son with her.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140434747, Paperback)

"I no longer love my husband – I HATE him! The word stares at me in the face like a guilty confession"

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young woman who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behaviour 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 the disastrous marriage she has left behind emerge. Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful depiction of a woman’s struggle for domestic independence and creative freedom.

In her introduction Steve Davies discusses The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as feminist testament, inspired by Anne Brontë’s experiences as a governess and by the death of her brother Branwell Brontë, and examines the novel’s language, biblical references and narrative styles.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:24 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The mysterious new tenant of Wildfell Hall is a strong-minded woman who keeps her own counsel. Helen 'Graham' - exiled with her child to the desolate moorland mansion, adopting an assumed name and earning her living as a painter - has returned to Wildfell Hall in flight from a disastrous marriage. Narrated by her neighbour Gilbert Markham, and in the pages of her own diary, the novel portrays Helen's eloquent struggle for independence at a time when the law and society defined a married woman as her husband's property.… (more)

» see all 18 descriptions

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Audible.com

Eleven editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Three editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434747, 0141035633, 0141199350

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