Title: Agnes Grey
Author: Anne Brontë
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: 2010 (1846)
Summary: Agnes Grey looks at childhood from nursery to adolescence, and it also charts the frustrations of romantic love, as Agnes starts to nurse warmer feelings towards the local curate, Mr. Weston. Sally Shuttleworth’s fascinating introduction considers the book’s fictional and narrative qualities, its relationship with Victorian child-rearing and the responsibilities of parents, and the changing attitudes to the book influenced by modern concerns for children’s rights.
I really enjoyed the narrative voice of Agnes Grey. Agnes is a rather independent character who, although sometimes fairly meek, stands up for herself and her beliefs. She takes on the job as a governess, a notoriously precarious job in the Victorian era due to their role in family life, to alleviate the financial pressure that her family face.
Many of the people that Agnes comes into contact with are rich, cruel, and incredibly selfish. Some of them come to regret their actions and some don’t. One character that I felt uncomfortable reading about was Tom Bloomfield, one of Agnes’ pupils. Tom is clearly a psychopath who tortures animals, much to the displeasure of Agnes who attempts to stop his behaviour, and he is often encouraged to commit these awful acts by his father and uncle. There are some scenes of animal cruelty in the book, especially towards birds, and I felt sick reading it.
I did enjoy reading Agnes Grey, minus the moments of animal cruelty, and it gave me an insight into the life that Anne Brontë would have experienced as a Victorian governess. It shows off Anne Brontë’s particular writing style and I liked how clear and direct the narrative is.
You can read Agnes Grey for free via Project Gutenberg.