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Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics) by Anne…
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Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics) (original 1847; edition 1989)

by Anne Brontë, Angeline Goreau (Editor)

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3,039801,865 (3.57)2 / 314
Member:hemlokgang
Title:Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Anne Brontë
Other authors:Angeline Goreau (Editor)
Info:Penguin Classics (1989), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:1001, England, Audiobook

Work details

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (1847)

  1. 80
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Medellia)
  2. 70
    Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Medellia)
    Medellia: Both books have sweet, shy, thoroughly virtuous protagonists, if you're a fan of that sort of character. (I am, and loved both novels!)
  3. 20
    Persuasion (Norton Critical Edition) by Jane Austen (kiwiflowa)
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English (76)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
This was a short, fun read, which was quite a treat after some of the more sloggy stuff I've read in the recent past.

There were certainly some sections where it was quite obvious the novel was written by someone quite young (the ending, in particular), but it's well-written, especially the characters. There's fairly limited dialogue, but what's there is done quite enjoyably and each character has her own distinct voice.

I loved how aware Brontë was of---and unafraid of writing about---the differences in how males and females were perceived in her culture. For example, when she talks about how unprepared the first of her boy pupils was when he left for school, she notes that "this, doubtless, would all be laid to the account of his education having been intrusted to an ignorant female teacher, who had presumed to take in hand what she was wholly incompetent to perform." (60) She notes this after describing in detail the challenges, restrictions, and unrealistic demands that made her less effective as a governess than she would otherwise have been. As female governess, she would never be given the benefit of the doubt; if her male pupils didn't do well, it couldn't possibly be anyone's fault but her own.

Despite Agnes' insistence on detailing her own shortcomings, I found her thoroughly "good" yet still quite delightful, like when she has fits of snark. "Climax of horror! actually waiting for their governess!!"(90) she writes when her pupils complain when she's not ready at their every whim. I suspect that Agnes would chide herself for this kind of thing, but it's also what makes her human and likable. Otherwise she would be just too perfect, bearing so much mistreatment unrealistically graciously.

On the opposite side of the coin is Rosalie, who reminds me of a girl who bullied me in junior high and the mixed feelings I had when I found her on Facebook many, many years later. Just as Agnes is good, but not totally good, Rosalie is wicked, but not 100% wicked. Rosalie's biggest flaw is that she can't empathize with anyone else. As Agnes describes the reactions of Rosalie and her sister to the cottagers on their father's estate,

"They never in thought exchanged places with them; and, consequently, had no consideration for their feelings, regarding them as an order of beings entirely distinct from themselves." (77)

Without the ability to put herself in anyone else's place, she's never able to make a true connection with another person, and this is part of what makes her a sympathetic character despite quotes like this: "I can't centre all my hopes in a child; that is only one degree better than devoting oneself to a dog." (162)

When I started writing this review, I had given this book three stars, but by the time I got to the third paragraph, I bumped it up to four stars. By then I'd realized how much I really did enjoy the book. Time will tell whether it will stick with me or not, but even if I forget a lot of it, I hope I remember this quote, which I find amusing just for the list it contains: "...between carts and horses, and asses, and men, there was little room for social intercourse..." (168) It seems to describe how I often feel in busy social situations.
  ImperfectCJ | Dec 1, 2014 |
This was an enjoyable book to read, but I found the plot to be predictable and the characters seemed stereotyped and flat. The plot is a familiar one. A pastor's family falls into financial troubles and one of the daughters has to go into service as a governess. She works for 2 different families - both of them shallow with spoiled children and of course, they treat Agnes like dirt. She keeps her chin up and endures and since this is a Victorian romance, you can imagine the final outcome. I usually love the Victorian marriage plot stories, but I found Agnes to be too much of a goody two shoes. Unlike some other memorable characters, like Jane Eyre, she lacks spunk and let's people walk all over her. Just add 3 miracles and she could be St. Agnes Grey. Still enjoyable, but not a classic that will stay with me. ( )
  jmoncton | Nov 24, 2014 |
a realistic & plain love story. The main character is normal and there isn't anything extravagant about the whole thing. Which makes this book a very nice read, it's a nice change to all the drama filled romance novels you find today.
It was charming & wonderful. ( )
  lisa.isselee | Sep 26, 2014 |
I ended up enjoying this book. At first I thought Agnes was pretty annoying - self-righteous and a little full of herself. But two things changed this for me. One was that I embraced the concept that this was sort of a diary-style book and realized that Agnes was being very honest the whole time with her opinions and observations. I thought about how when I kept a diary in high school how awful a lot of the things I wrote were! When you really think no one's reading something like that all sorts of things come out. Second, as Agnes experiences more of the world, she becomes a better person. So that made the book more enjoyable as you get further in.

Overall, this book was not earth-shattering, but it was enjoyable and I will definitely try The Tenant of Wildfell Hall soon since I've heard it's the better book of Anne Bronte's. ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 7, 2014 |
Anne seems to be the forgotten Bronte, and while I liked this book as a change of pace from the outright melodramas and romances that Charlotte and Emily wrote, it really wasn't up to snuff with my expectations, I guess. ( )
  marthaearly | Jun 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brontë, Anneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaReadermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brockway, HarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruohtula, KaarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, AnneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suess, Barbara A.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut.
Quotations
It is foolish to wish for beauty. Sensible people never either desire it for themselves or care about it in others. If the mind be but well cultivated, and the heart well disposed, no one ever cares for the exterior.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Agnes Grey is forced by the poverty ensuing on her father's death to seek work as a governess, the only employment available to middle-class young women of the time. Her humiliating first position lasts only six months, but she is soon employed by the Murray family. Tormented by the coquettish Rosalie and the student tomboy Matilda, she finds her position increasingly lonely and difficult. Only Mr Weston, the poor, plain curate shows any kindness, and Rosalie seems bent on his conquest. Anne Bronte knew only too well what is was to be a governess - "your efforts baffled and set at nought by those beneath you, and unjustly censured by those above". With Agnes Grey she created an impassioned account of a role which stripped so many Victorian women of their dignity. And, reinforcing her insistence on a woman's right to personal freedom, vividly presents the natural landscape as a mirror to her heroine's inner life.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140432108, Paperback)

When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes' enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Bronte's first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:56 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes' enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Bronte's first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 17 descriptions

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