21 November 2010

A day late...

...but not a dollar short, I don't think. Let's try Sundays and Wednesdays for a bit, yes? They've always seemed good twice-a-week days to me.

So The Tenant of Wildfell Hall!!! Every bit as amazing as Agnes Grey was disappointing. I read this novel because of these chickens:

These lovely ladies free-range about my folks' backyard (here they're having Saturday morning coffee with my dad). And because my family is my family, their names are (L-R) Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, after the Bronte sisters! And because they'd ended up with those names, my parents couldn't resist taking my bookselling-alma-mater Watermark's Bronte Sisters Challenge last summer. And while Penguin Classics saw fit to stick Agnes Grey in with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights like it was Anne's best novel, the inimitable, indefatigable Mark Bradshaw (love you, Mark!) sussed out Tenant and told everybody in the Challenge it was his fave of all the Bronte novels. So Mom and Dad read and agreed. And golly, so do I!!!

Tenant centers on an excruciating portrait of a terrible marriage, at a time (1848) when such things weren't talked about--but it's worth as much as a novel as it is a historical curio, due to the relentless detail of how poor Helen Huntingdon, head turned by a handsome rogue and sure she can settle him down (how hope springs in the 18-year-old heart), finds herself tied indissolubly to a childish drunk, more interested in carousing in London with his bros than getting to know his son--he's jealous of the baby for diverting her attention from him; later, he amuses himself by getting the toddler drunk and teaching him swear words. Helen's first-person narrative (told in diary form) is a masterpiece of emotional doublethink: she vacillates between love and hate, between determination to force her husband to reform by endless patience and love and the fear that her beloved son will grow up just like his father. It's like following Lydia and Willoughby home, and a marvelous antidote to the "romanticizing [of] douchey behavior" (I love you, Kate Beaton) practiced by Anne's sisters, and by extension generations of writers for women (*cough Stephenie Meyer cough*). It's a must-read. Thank you, chickens!


  1. That fabulous picture is why I need to click through to blogs more often, not just read the posts in Google Reader.

    Your dad is a very trusting man.

  2. Emily is just checking to see whether he has cereal. They go CRAZY for the milk dregs.


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