Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
By Anne Bronte
(Oxford University Press, USA, Paperback, 9780199207558, May 2008, 441pp.)

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.

Source: Borrowed
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Review: And the Mountains Echoed


And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed
By Khaled Hosseini
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594631764, May 2013, 416pp.)

The Short of It:

A multi-generational saga that begins with a difficult decision, a decision that manages to echo repeatedly throughout the lives of this family.

The Rest of It:

I can’t say that I’ve read Hosseini before this book. I was supposed to. The Kite Runner was a book club pick many years ago but I could not get into the writing so I gave up on it. However, this was not the case with And the Mountains Echoed. In fact, I was immediately pulled into the story and kept with it no matter how many families appeared or what happened to them, but I must be honest, I lost interest during the second half of the novel. For me, there seemed to be too much going on and too many characters to keep track of.

But, that is why it’s good to read these types of books with a book club. You get to discuss the hell out of it and then after all of the discussion, you typically have a new-found appreciation for the writing and that is very much the case here.

The story begins in an Afghan village. Abdullah is ten-years-old and his baby sister Pari,  is only three. They live with their father and step-mother but have struggled with money all of their lives. After losing a baby to the cold the previous winter, Abdullah’s father, Saboor, takes Pari to a wealthy family, where she will live out her remaining years. Abdullah is devastated by this decision. The two of them were very close and losing his sister causes him great pain. Saboor, also greatly affected, has to believe that he’s made the right decision. With so little food and the harsh winter ahead of her, he doesn’t see how keeping her would be in her best interest.

The story then bounces back and forth between Afghanistan and the West as we follow the families involved. All in all, I lost interest in the other generations. Their stories didn’t resonate with me as much as Pari’s or Abdullah’s for that matter, but I can’t deny the fact that Hosseini knows how to tell a story. He does.

As a book club pick, there was actually plenty to discuss. I worried that the conversation would fall flat but everyone had lots to say and most enjoyed reading it. What weighed heavily on me was Saboor’s decision to sell his daughter to the wealthy family. As harsh as the decision was, was it the best thing for her at the time? Most agreed that yes, it was. I wasn’t so sure. Surely, money and position do play a role in a girl’s survival, but was it a better life? I am still pondering the alternative and I finished the book a few weeks ago so that just goes to show you how the book manages to stay with you.

Have you read it? I can’t say it was a favorite but it made for some excellent discussion.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.