Well, that was one talented family. Emily and Charlotte were read around ten years ago for the first time, and this was my first instance of Anne. Where does she fit? Chances are, I enjoyed her the best.
The mysterious Helen Graham shows up at Wildfell Hall with her young son Arthur. Assumed a widow, the quiet lady is victim to a lot of slander from the village gossips. Why is such a beautiful young lady spending so much time alone in a huge house? And why does Mr Lawrence keep visiting her? But there's Gilbert Markham too, bless him, who falls in love with Helen but she insists and insists that he can't have her. Why not? Because she's got a husband who is an absolute...(trying really hard not to swear here, fill in the blank yourself).
The first part is told by Markham, the second is a series of diary entries written by Helen describing her past, and her horrible present. The story here is of a horrible marriage, and of even more horrible people. Anne Bronte really knows how to paint her characters - there's enough dark and enough light in everyone to allow the reader to make their own judgements and to invest their emotions where they see fit. But it wasn't an easy ride - as the characters revealed more about themselves, the more I changed my opinion. I suppose that's how real relationships work, and Anne did it so well that I was left quite crazy with the various betrayals going on. It's quite nasty for a writer to play with a reader's expectations and emotions so much, but she is so brilliant in doing it, and so cleverly too. The exception would be in Annabella.
Don't even get me started on Annabella. Never, ever have I wanted to slap a fictional character so hard in my life. Such a horrible, slimy, malicious little bitch I have never met. And thank God. Urgh. I couldn't handle such a prissy little bitch. I hate women that know that they're beautiful, and they know that because they're beautiful they can get away with anything. No way would I let that slapper in my house. Argh. Yes, this rant was necessary. Because I was so invested in Helen, despite her rather closed-mindness to anything that wasn't very pious, that I felt for her so deeply in all that she went through. Cheating is a horrible crime, and you'd better believe that they did it way back when. But the point here is that Anne Bronte has such an excellent command of her characters and what they say and do, and she knows fine well what kind of reaction that will produce. Never underestimate a woman who can get so close to the nitty gritty of human relationships.
I'm no feminist (let's not get into that nonsense here) but I do think that every woman ever should read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - take a look at the various female characters; which would you rather be? If you're a hetero male, it's a good indication into what kind of woman you should be after. Equally, if you're a gay man, there's some decisions to make into who is the better man. Basically, if you are of any sex and any sexuality, this book has a lot to suggest on how to behave as a human being if you ever want to have any kind of decent friendships or relationships in your life.