Agnes Grey was Anne Brontë’s first novel. It is somewhat autobiographical in that it does mirror Anne’s life quite significantly. It is by no means long, it is definitely the shortest of the Brontë novels I’ve read at just over 250 pages (the first 50 or so of which are actually an introduction to Anne and her life).
Agnes is 18 when she goes off to be a governess – it’s a Brontë novel, of course there’s a governess – as she wishes to prove herself to her family, showing them she’s not a helpless child that they all see her as. The first family, the Bloomfield’s, are ghastly; the eldest son is one of the most infuriating, awful children I’ve ever had the misfortune to read, and his sisters are not much better. Between them, they get Agnes in as much trouble as possible. Not deterred, she moves on from this position to the Murray family, some 70 miles from home, filled with renewed hope. It’s not a long story, but it is definitely a lovely read.
Agnes is naive and a little too perfect at times. Don’t get me wrong, she is a wonderful heroine who does develop over the course of the novel but she is sometimes just a little bit too sweet; I’d like more of the sassy Agnes we get occasionally! The narrative of this novel is delicate, Anne is just a wonderful author and I really wish she had written more.
If you want drama on the scale of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights then go for Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall because Agnes Grey is a much gentler read, it isn’t very dramatic, it’s a much cozier read when compared to her sisters’ works. It took me longer to read this than I had hoped, simply because of exams, but I would have happily have read this in an afternoon had I have had the time! I’m very happy to give this a 4/5 and I think it’s gone to my list of comfort reads, this is one I’d very much like to reread in future.