REVIEW: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Why Did I Read This Book?

On my recent trip to the Bronte Parsonage in the beautiful town of Haworth, here in the UK, I fell more and more in love with the three sisters. For Emily, Anne and Branwell, their lives were drastically cut short through illness, leaving their heartbroken sister Charlotte to mourn.

There was a separate exhibition on at the museum all about Anne in particular, but I always feel like Anne is the ‘forgotten’ sister. Charlotte takes the limelight as Jane Eyre is arguably one of the most famous books to come out of the Bronte family, and obviously every Halloween, Wuthering Heights wrote by Emily will always be celebrated tremendously. Yet where does Anne’s celebration begin?

Shamefully, I’ve not read any of Anne’s work and the trip to the parsonage left me eager to do just that…

What Did I Think?

I think I’m not alone in saying that classics, especially those over 300 pages are daunting. Most early novelists LOVE to add so much detail to their stories that sometimes, chapters in classic novels can grow tiresome and confusing. Yet I have to say, even though The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (The Tenant) is over 500 pages, I had no problems at all with the language or the story. I understood everything that was happening and every time I opened the book up, I slid perfectly back into the story.

Now, even though I love classics, reading The Tenant so easily was new to me and I found myself being able to read huge chunks of the book instead of little bits here and there. I found the story and the characters completely encapsulating and I enjoyed every second of it.

Now if you’ve never read The Tenant it is written in three different parts. The first part is in letter form and we hear via local farmer, Gilbert Markham’s letters that a mystery woman (Helen Graham) and her son have moved into the nearby Wildfell Hall and over the months, he becomes acquainted with Helen but can’t understand why she is so adamant that she will never marry again. 

The second part then comprises Helen’s diary and we witness first-hand her experience of young love, marriage and the heartbreak that has made Helen the fiery woman she is when Gilbert meets her. For the third and final part, we return to Gilbert’s letters to see how things unfold once Helen’s secret is out. 

There were certainly moments throughout this book where I felt I could hear moments of Anne’s personality shining through. There were so many subtle hints about how Anne truly felt about the different treatment of women compared to men and even with her character creation, Helen Graham is a brilliant heroine that takes no sh*t from the men who surround her. Helen Graham is now one of my favourite female characters and it’s so refreshing to see such a strong-willed character like Helen, featured in a novel which was written way before the fight for women’s suffrage. I know that the fight for women’s rights didn’t begin with the Suffragette’s and it certainly didn’t end there either, but what is so great to hear is that there were women, like Anne, who were not afraid to voice their opinions on the treatment of women. 

I certainly enjoyed every moment of this book and it is one that will surely stick in my mind forever. I look forward to hopefully reading more of Anne’s work and hopefully reading more about her because for her to remain known as the ‘forgotten’ Bronte sister would be truly heartbreaking.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Published: 2012 (my copy)
# of Pages: 524
Genre: Classic
Trigger Warnings: Abuse, divorce, separation, alcoholism, addiction
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

  1. I love this review! This book does not get enough love. I absolutely loved it when I read it and Anne needs more appreciation as a Bronte sister and writer. She has so much to offer and her work is very different from her sisters’. – Amber

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