The Bronte Sisters
Three Novels: Jane Eyre; Wuthering Heights; and Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
The most cherished novel from each of England's talented sisters, in one gorgeously packaged volume
The Brontë family was a literary phenomenon unequalled before or since. Both Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Emily's Wuthering Heights have won lofty places in the pantheon and stirred the romantic sensibilities of generations of readers. For the first time ever, Penguin Classics unites these two enduring favorites with the lesser known but no less powerful work by their youngest sister, Anne. Drawn from Anne's own experiences as a governess, Agnes Grey offers a compelling view of Victorian chauvinism and materialism. Its inclusion makes The Brontë Sisters a must-have volume for anyone fascinated by this singularly talented family.
Student Review by Khadija Paruk, University of Birmingham
Jane Eyre is also an orphan but a long-suffering orphan who is more than willing to leave Gateshead because of the maltreatment she receives from her cousins, Aunt Reed and even some of the servants based on shallow defects such as lacking beauty. After defending herself for the first time against the ringleader John, she is sent to school and escapes the limbo in which she is held, as she is not a servant or considered a member of the family. But trials await her there as word of her supposed ‘bad character’ is spread. The readers find it impossible not to sympathise with her and wills her to prove herself. With perseverance, she escapes the stereotype attributed to her and finds a semblance of peace. Eventually Jane on becoming a teacher grows tired of Lowood due to the departure and death of those she loves. She finds a position as a governess at Thornfield, an apt name as there she experiences bliss and is also exposed to her greatest pain or thorn in the guise of a Mr Rochester and the upper classes. Little did she know that the strange happenings punctuating her happiness would be the cause of her downfall. Charlotte Bronte’s narrative style demonstrates a highly-skilled ability as readers including myself find themselves mirroring Jane’s emotions as the plot and the language are weaved intricately through the use of original imagery. This is emphasised by Charlotte’s trait of directly addressing the reader which makes Jane and all the characters real. After reading this book, you wish you had an ounce of patience and strength that Jane had. If Oliver Twist is the saddest boy than surely Jane Eyre is the saddest girl to have been created.
Agnes Grey is often wrongly overlooked in favour of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. But it is just as compelling. Agnes Grey’s family is reduced to poverty so Agnes desiring to contribute to her family’s finances becomes a governess. Her first attempt to teach three children the required subjects as well as polite and moral behaviour is unsuccessful. Unfortunately for Agnes, their parents in particular the mother, Mrs Bloomfield are blind to the children’s faults which makes Agnes’s task comparable to Hercules’ labours. Following this, she enters a different family, the Murrays with whom she has more success. The children in particular are appreciative of her honesty and sincerity but are also shallow particularly the older girl, Rosalie, who is on the verge of making her debut into society while the younger girl, Matilda scorns anything feminine. Here, Agnes settles and attempts to inject seriousness and consideration of others in her charges. Agnes’s peace however is short as she is required to return to home and to leave the village and a certain Mr Weston of whose acquaintance she made at the church near the Murrays’ residence. Although this novel is less eventful than Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, it’s simplicity and gentle tone complements the previous novels. If Wuthering Heights is a storm, Agnes Grey is a delicate breeze. Anne Bronte believed the purpose of writing is to educate but the moral lessons present are extremely subtle that the whole narrative immediately results in an overall reflection. Moreover the narrative is made all the more personal when considering that it is semi-autobiographical since Anne drew on her experiences as a governess. Fans of Jane Austen will in particular appreciate this novel.
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