Summary from Goodreads:
Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past.
Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerfully involving read.
I was expecting to struggle with this novel (and I did a bit in the middle because of the size of the text) because of my past experiences with Bronte literature. However, I emotionally connected with the characters and had a hard time putting it down.
What I Liked:
The use of duel point of views. I enjoyed the authors ability to write from the female and male point of view. I loved Helen's journals and Gilbert's letters to his friend as the primary way of conveying the story. It created a depth of emotion and feeling of friendship/intimacy that I was not expecting, even more so than a straight forward narrative.
The characters. The novel has a mixture of very human characters, it does not just have sinful or cruel female or male characters but a mixture of flawed individuals. I grew attached to Helen Huntingdon friends. However, it was hard to read some of the actions and statement made by both the negative male and female characters (Mr. Hargrave, Mr. Huntingdon, Annabella, to just name a few).
The fact that novel was populated with both good and passionate characters like Helen and Gilbert but also negative ones gave it a realistic feel even if parts of it were full of melancholy. The realism allowed me to grow attached to certain characters, Helen, Gilbert, Millicent (I cried in some of her parts) and it emotionally affected me.
The writing. I enjoyed Anne Bronte's beautiful writing style, her use of nature and settings, but even more so I loved that she was no too wordy. Her prose more straight forward and easy to follow.
Feminism. It was shocking to find such progressive ideals about women, men, and society between the pages of a 18th century novel. Helen Huntingdon was a revolutionary strong female character who calls out double standards in the second chapter, is passionate about vows, her duty to God, and good role model for female characters today!
What I Did Not Like:
The pacing. I flew through the first hundred pages but once the narrative changed to expose Mrs. Huntingdon's secrets the pacing changed. I felt that the whole journal and explanation could have been shorter
I recommend checking out this underappreciated classic novel, I was completely surprised by how amazing and progressive it was!
4.5 Stars Out of 5 Stars