Date of Publication: 1847
“Drawing on her own experiences, Anne Bronte wrote her first novel out of an urgent need to inform her contemporaries about the desperate position of unmarried, educated women driven to take up the only ‘respectable’ career open to them – that of a governess. Struggling with the monstrous Bloomfield children and then disdained in the superior Murray household, Agnes tells a story that is at once a compelling inside view of Victorian chauvinism and ruthless materialism and, according to George Moore, ‘the most perfect prose narrative in English literature.'”
I’d been wanting to read this book for several years, and when I finally did, I was not disappointed. Although I found the book somewhat preachy at times (Agnes is the daughter of a clergyman, and the hero is a curate), I still felt that the character of Agnes was compelling. The behavior of the Bloomfield children is disturbing in its mindless cruelty, and Agnes’s perseverance in trying to bring about a change is admirable, if only a little bit pathetic. It is obvious that this is a very true to life account of what many governesses went through in Victorian England, being disdained by family and servants alike, having no real place in the household, and being forced to contend with spoiled and unruly children. Readers who have enjoyed Jane Eyre should love this book, and they will find comforting similarities between Agnes and Jane.
Reviewed by Sarah