Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall"

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
By Anne Bronte
Oxford University Press
Copyright 2008 (New Edition)
The Classics

Of course, you all know I love Victorian fiction. I had actually read this book a long time ago, but didn't have much recollection of it. So I decided to sit down and read it again. I had to sit a long time, though......I had forgotten that it was a very time-consuming read. Although it is not a thick novel, it is full of "old" English and takes a few extra moments to get through the dialogue and description. However, regardless of the length of time it took me to read it, I did enjoy it yet again!

In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte tackles the unpleasant question of "what should happen if you were to marry the wrong person?" In our day and age, obviously, divorce is the answer. But in Victorian England, divorce was still unbelievably taboo and would result only in the complete and utter devastation of the divorcee's character and reputation, not to mention leading to her complete ostracization by all society. Not a pleasant outcome, to be sure, which we learn from a diary that details the events that take place when Lady Helen Huntingdon finds herself in such a situation.

Helen is a willful girl who marries the gentleman she thinks is best for her, although she is warned otherwise by caring (and wiser) relatives and friends. She soon learns the folly of her choice, but is stuck with no way out. As her circumstances become more dire, Helen puts together a plan of escape. She hides away with her young son at Wildfell Hall. Her location is precarious. Her secret is great. And the last thing she expects (or will allow) is to fall in love with a neighboring farmer (ooooooooooo! Exciting!)

The first few chapters of the book were a little confusing; trying to keep everyone straight was a challenge. But 50 pages in the reader will suddenly have a much better grasp of what is going on (and, frankly, the book gets more interesting by the page!) However, I would only recommend this little Victorian treat to other lovers of Victorian literature (i.e. Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, etc.) If that's not your cup of tea, well, too bad for you!

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