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Old 11-01-2019, 06:55 AM   #1
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November 2019 Discussion • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontė



The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel by the English author Anne Brontė. It was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Probably the most shocking of the Brontės' novels, it had an instant and phenomenal success, but after Anne's death her sister Charlotte prevented its re-publication in England until 1854.

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Old 11-15-2019, 07:34 AM   #2
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It's time to discuss The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. What did we think of it?
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Old 11-15-2019, 08:06 AM   #3
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Hmm - I must confess I was disappointed by the book. The subject matter should have been powerful, given the appalling way in which some women were treated by their husbands, and their total lack of any rights at the time of the story. The Married Women’s Property Act did not come into law for many decades.

However, it struck me as being a misery memoir. Helen was too saintly to be credible, and I can’t understand what she sees in Gilbert.

Anne Brontė seems to me to be lacking much of the talent of her sisters, and I can understand why her books are so much less well known than those of Charlotte and Emily.
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Old 11-15-2019, 08:51 AM   #4
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I'm still struggling to finish it. Time has been short and the book has been hard work. Anne Brontė really knows how to belabour the point. No subtlety, not much (sorely needed) humour. When the characters do get a chance to express themselves they aren't too bad, but far too often the author takes the words out of their mouths and tells us explicitly. I'm tempted not to bother finishing ... but will struggle on a bit further (while I've got this much other stuff going on I may as well have a book going that isn't going to distract me too much).

Last edited by gmw; 11-15-2019 at 09:00 AM. Reason: book not booking - booking is one of the things I'm working on
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Old 11-15-2019, 09:05 AM   #5
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However, it struck me as being a misery memoir. Helen was too saintly to be credible, and I can’t understand what she sees in Gilbert.
Bookpossum sums up my feelings about Helen & Gilbert perfectly. Apparently they fell in love over long deep soulful talks about a broad range of interesting topics. Unfortunately we weren’t witness to any of that, and it was hard to bond with either of them.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the writing. But I’m glad to have read it as a period piece. It was interesting to see the world through Anne Brontė‘s eyes. I can appreciate her motivation for writing the book (as stated in her preface to the second edition).

I found many things puzzling. Were people of her class really so preoccupied with such pious drivel, status, and rigid conventions? It left me feeling there wasn’t much room for personal happiness, or authentic relationships.
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Old 11-15-2019, 09:16 AM   #6
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I'm still struggling to finish it. Time has been short and the book has been hard work. Anne Brontė really knows how to belabour the point. No subtlety, not much (sorely needed) humour. When the characters do get a chance to express themselves they aren't too bad, but far too often the author takes the words out of their mouths and tells us explicitly. I'm tempted not to bother finishing ... but will struggle on a bit further (while I've got this much other stuff going on I may as well have a book going that isn't going to distract me too much).
Sorry for the cross post. gmwthat exactly what I was trying to express - Bronte just flat out tells us everything, so we never get to discover or feel anything. Except impatience

Instead of struggling through, since it’s written in 3 parts, you could consider just jumping ahead to the third part. She repeats enough that you’d get the full gist.
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Old 11-15-2019, 12:09 PM   #7
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When I originally checked my library for what audiobook versions were available, I marveled at the huge discrepancy between the unabridged versions (15-16 hours) and the abridged version (under 3 hours). Wow, I thought, how can that be? How can all that story be trimmed so much?

Having slogged through the full book, now I can understand how.
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Old 11-15-2019, 01:21 PM   #8
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I'll have more to say later, once I've been able to finish, but I can already say that this book has been a real slog. One rather understands why Anne is the least known of the Brontė sisters.

The prose is positively turgid. Overblown, convoluted, and just plain wordy. Anne appears to go on the premise "why use two words, when 20 will do". And yes, Catlady, I can well understand how an abridgment could be 20% of the length of a full narration.

I started out listening, but it was going slowly, so I tried to switch to reading the eBook. THAT didn't last. At least with the audio book, I can knit and do other things while it's happening. And the narration I chose, by Frederick Davidson and Nadia May, is excellent, especially that of Nadia May.

I've got a bit to finish, but I've got a weekend with no tasks on my list except some knitting, a major rain storm promised, and no curling on TV. This seems like the perfect book for that.
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Old 11-15-2019, 04:47 PM   #9
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I started out listening, but it was going slowly, so I tried to switch to reading the eBook. THAT didn't last. At least with the audio book, I can knit and do other things while it's happening. And the narration I chose, by Frederick Davidson and Nadia May, is excellent, especially that of Nadia May.
This is the version I listened to as well, and I did not like Frederick Davidson at all, which I guess is heresy here. I did a quick check of my records and discovered that I had apparently never listened to Davidson/Case before, and I don't think I'd seek him out again. I think a lot of my dislike of Gilbert was based on Davidson's performance--he sounded like a foppish jerk and the person who should be the villain of the piece.

I have listened to Nadia May many times before, and she didn't disappoint; I was much happier when I reached her part of the story, though Helen was still someone I wanted to smack upside the head.
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Old 11-15-2019, 06:24 PM   #10
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I have a vague recollection of there being a BBC or other UK TV version. I looked it up and see Rupert Graves was the wicked husband. He would have done it well. Villains are usually much more fun for actors to do.

You did make me laugh out loud Catlady!
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Old 11-15-2019, 06:35 PM   #11
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Sorry for the cross post. gmwthat exactly what I was trying to express - Bronte just flat out tells us everything, so we never get to discover or feel anything. Except impatience

Instead of struggling through, since it’s written in 3 parts, you could consider just jumping ahead to the third part. She repeats enough that you’d get the full gist.
Exactly so. That journal with all the minutely reported conversations...! I think skipping it entirely is the way to go, though normally I abhor the idea of abridging books.

It’s a pity Anne didn’t have the talent of her sisters, as the dire situation of a woman in such an abusive marriage was one that deserved to be dragged into the open. Something was needed to galvanise the lawmakers into action, despite the comforts of living in a patriarchal society. Perhaps it was a first step on the way to improving the legal status of women, despite its melodrama.
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Old 11-16-2019, 12:43 AM   #12
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[...] I think a lot of my dislike of Gilbert was based on Davidson's performance--he sounded like a foppish jerk and the person who should be the villain of the piece. [...]
You mean Gilbert is not the villain? With lines like this: "Miss Millward was there, it is true, but she, of course, would be little better than a nonentity." I thought we were supposed to dislike him.

Only half in jest. It seems to me that he is not a very attractive protagonist. Any positive aspects are mainly positive with respect to how bad everyone else is.

I'm skimming part 2. Like part 1 there are elements in there that could have been quite good if not lost in the meandering: the character evolution in both parts feels reasonably convincing.
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:46 AM   #13
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I picked out that quote too, gmw. He was so callow and offensive, that I was amazed that Helen would look at him twice. A bit earlier he commented that Mary Millward had “the art of conciliating and amusing children ... if she is good for nothing else”. Helen Graham put him in his place over that remark, and rightly so.
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Old 11-16-2019, 09:18 AM   #14
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Since we’re deconstructing Gilbert’s character, he was self-serving and had serious jealousy issues too. He admits little Arthur and Lawrence were mostly a means to get to Helen. His attack on Lawrence was vicious, uncalled for, and he knowingly left him injured and vulnerable. I couldn’t believe it when Lawrence forgave him.
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Old 11-16-2019, 09:31 AM   #15
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I am still working through the book. Unfortunately I lost time as I was captivated by Twilight of Empire—am examination of the Mayerling tragedy. I am about halfway through Anne Bronte”s novel and so far I like it. However, despite the fact that it was enormously popular and outsold Wuthering Heights, I don’t think that (so far) it is in the class of the latter. But it is enjoyable and has flashes of genuine power.

BTW I am listening to the Audible version by the Online Stage which runs just under 17 hours.

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