Anne Brönte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Brönte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is in a way a typical love story but with many unpredictable twists. It being more like a detective story than a romance novel, make it a must-read. 

This is another book of which I watched the adaptation before I read it. My guilty pleasure, as will have dawned on you, is watching all sorts of period dramas. I can watch them over and over again. But at a certain point it’s time to read the actual books. So my project this year is to read as many novels that are on my ‘high time to read list’ as I can.

Anyway, back to Brönte’s novel. The first part is told through letters of Gilbert Markham in which he tells the reader about a mysterious woman with a huge secret, Helen Graham, who comes to live in small, remote village with her young son Arthur. Because people know so little about her, she becomes the talk of the town. The second part of the novel consists of Helen’s diaries in which her past becomes clear and her secret is revealed. The reader finally (!) understands why Helen lives so withdrawn from society. The third and last part is made up of Gilbert’s letters again after he read Helen’s diaries and knows her big secret.

I liked it being an epistolary novel (which I wasn’t aware of). I also loved the character of Gilbert and luckily his voice takes up a large part of the novel. He’s commonsensical young man, who grows up in the story from a boy to a man. Helen is, especially for that time, truly a courageous woman, which will become clear after you’ve discovered her secret. She is loving, caring and the fact that you’re reading her diaries gives a fascinating insight in her life.

There are many, many beautiful parts in this book as when Helen plucks a rose and says:

“This rose is not so fragrant as a summer flower, but it has stood through hardships none of them could bear: the cold rain of winter has sufficed to nourish it, and its faint sun to warm it; the bleak winds have not blanched it, or broken its stem, and the keen frost has not blighted it. Look, Gilbert, it is still fresh and blooming as a flower can be, with the cold snow even now on its petals. – Will you have it?”

Which Gilbert, dear Gilbert, doesn’t understand immediately.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a great love story. Perfect to read sitting in a flowery park on a warm, spring evening.


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