Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

At last, I have finished Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Now I have read a book by each of the Bronte's sisters.  I'm sure there are many that will disagree with me, but I think that Anne Bronte is the lesser known sister for a reason.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall begins with the narration of Gilbert Markham, a young farmer from a small English village.  When a young widow and her son move to the village, she and Gilbert clash a bit because she is very solitary and protective of her son.  But Gilbert is rather persistent, and eventually friendship and more develops between them.  But the widow, Helen, resists any romantic relationship and, amid rumors that she is her landlord's mistress, she tells Gilbert her story.

Helen married when she was very young to a handsome and charming man who soon proved to be a reprobate.  Much of the book is about her miserable married life to Arthur Huntingdon.  I did feel for Helen, and I think that given the time the book was written in, the subject matter of a disastous marriage was pretty scandalous.  But I didn't find it all that compelling of a story.

But the book did have its moments.  There is one character, Walter Hargrave, who I found to be one of the most dispicable characters I've read about in a long time.  He is a friend of Helen's husband, Huntingdon, but he repeatedly tries to win Helen's heart.  He makes sure to take every opportunity to point out every bad thing that Huntingdon does wrong, how awful he is, as if that will induce Helen to throw aside her own morals.  I'm not describing this very well, but he's gross.  So gross.  Helen rejects him at every turn, but he won't leave her alone, no matter how clear she makes it that she wants nothing to do with him other than a polite friendship. 

Hargrave's behavior is part of the reason why I didn't really like Gilbert, because he kind of does the same thing.  He continues to pursue Helen even after she makes it clear she's not interested in a relationship.  And even after he finds out that she's still married, he uses Hargrave's logic that Huntingdon's adultry releases her from her duty of fidelity.  I couldn't understand why Helen responded to Gilbert's attention, but I suppose he does have redeeming qualities.  He's a good man (even though he is at times prone to jealous rage!) and he doesn't drink and whore around like Huntingdon and his friends did. 

But Gilbert and Helen were both a little bland.  I think that is one reason why the novels by Anne's sisters are more famous.  There's just more going on with the characters and with the plots that makes them interesting and memorable.  I mean, I'm glad that Helen gets to have her happy, pious life eventually, but it's boring. 

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Book Notes

I'm trying to make my way through The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but it is tough!  I've got a lot on my plate between now and Christmas break, but not only that, so far the book is kinda boring.  I'm judging you by your sisters, Anne Bronte!  I need something alone the lines of a secret, crazy, Creole wife or at the very least some head-banging-against-a-tree-in-agony.  So far this Gilbert dude is about as appealing as a dog shit casserole.  I actually liked Helen until she started to return his feelings.

In other Bronte news, I finished watching the newest film adaptation of Jane Eyre, and it's HAWT.  Me likes.  I don't care if you sexy up my classic literature, that's A-okay with me!  Like Colin Firth's pond scene in Pride and Prejudice or Matthew Macfadyen's cavat-less early morning walk to the Bennett residence in the later version.  The sexier the better!  I got more upset over Mr. Rochester not losing his hand.  WTF?  That's his penance to be paid for trying to incriminate Jane in his bigamy plot!

Finally, we read a case in my law school class today that involved the Hindenburg explosion.  I'm sure most people who think of the Hindenburg think of that reporter guy who squawked on and on, "Oh the humanity!"  Me?  I thought of Julia Marks Wakefield.

Julia Marks Wakefield?  You ask, Who the heck is that?

Only Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield's great-grandmother who tragically perished in the Hindenburg diaster, leaving her husband and young son behind!  Come on, you don't remember that from Sweet Valley Saga: The Wakefield Legacy?  Then perhaps this will refresh your memory! (Finding that website pretty much made me week. Scroll down to the inside cover picture and you'll see what I mean about the Hindenburg.)

Man, I want to get my hands on one of those books so bad.  I wonder how they would seem to me now.  Fifteen or so years ago I couldn't get enough of them!  (Obviously, as I still remember the plot.)