Agnes Grey (from Selected Works of the Brontë Sisters) – Anne Brontë
Wordsworth Editions, 2005 (Originally published 1847)
Agnes Grey is the daughter of a love story. When her father’s romantic notions fail to provide for his family, Agnes goes out into the world to find work, determined to make her family proud, but life as a governess in the mid nineteenth century is not an easy one. Bound by the rules and expectations of others, adrift in homes that can never be hers, the only person she can rely upon is herself.
Having read (and raved about) Anne Brontë’s novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, her only other book was high on my To Read list for 2014. Agnes Grey was her first novel and is a much simpler story, with a stronger thread of religious sentiment. The romantic element didn’t grip me – neither did the one in Wildfell Hall, for that matter – but this is much more than a story about falling in love. The social commentary is beautifully scathing, the experiences eternally relevant, and the quiet, self-supporting resilience of her heroine is given excellent context within a cast of complicated, fully fleshed out characters. It is desperately sad that Anne never got the chance to write more.