Tag Archives: Victorian 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
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Meaning Of Night: A Confession, by Michael Cox

My book group met last night to discuss The Meaning of Night, by Michael Cox. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book.

The setting is Victorian England during the mid-nineteenth century. We meet Edward Glyver and he has committed a murder, of which he is confessing to. Here is a snippet from Barnes & Noble:

“After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.” So begins the “enthralling” (Booklist, starred review) and “ingenious” (Boston Globe) story of Edward Glyver, book lover, scholar, and murderer. A chance discovery convinces Glyver that greatness awaits him. His path to win back what is rightfully his leads him to Evenwood, one of England’s most enchanting country houses, and a woman who will become his obsession.

While attending school, Edward Glyver is framed by his friend Phoebus Daunt and expelled from the institution. As Daunt continues to be favored by all those around him, Glyver struggles with who is is and can’t seem to find his purpose in life. Frustrated over his predicament, he manages to secure a job with Mr. Tredgold, who sees in him, what others cannot see. It is during this time that he changes his name to Edward Glapthorn.

During his employment with Mr. Tredgold, Glapthorn (Glyver) discovers a bit of information that could change his future for the better and put Mr. Daunt in his place, once and for all. In his quest for proof, he meets Miss Emily Carteret and falls madly in love.

When I started to read this book, I was a little taken aback by the immense size of the novel. It weighs in at just over 700 pages. As I began to read, it seemed a bit wordy for me but by page 100, I was completely hooked. I’ve heard from a few of you that you have this book in your TBR pile but that you have yet to pick it up. Well, pick it up and start reading!

The story is beautifully written. Every time I picked it up, I felt as if I was right there next to Glyver, feeling his frustration and pain. Glyver is the classic “anti-hero”. He doesn’t always make the right decision and sort of flounders through life, yet he is very likable and real and the reader can relate to him. If you like a book to take you away, then this would be a good one to read.

Since this was my book selection for the group, I worried at first that there may not be much to talk about. I mean, other than enjoying the book, would there be enough to discuss? I am happy to say that there was plenty to discuss and to my surprise, everyone read it! Even given its 700+ pages. We all agreed that the story did not really start until page 100. So if you read it, keep that in mind.

Many of the group members compared Cox’s writing style to that of Charles Dickens. I have to agree with them and in a Q&A session posted here, he mentions that David Copperfield and Great Expectations started his love affair with Victorian fiction. He also mentions other novels such as The Woman In White and Moonstone.

After doing a bit of research, I found out that Cox has written a sequel to this book and it just came out this week! It’s called The Glass of Time. I went straight to Barnes & Noble to buy it but I believe my book group wants to pitch it for next year’s list so I’ll hold off and wait until it gets selected. Maybe.

If you’ve read it, what did you think of it?