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New Leaf November 2019 Discussion • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
#1  issybird 11-01-2019, 06:55 AM
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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel by the English author Anne Brontë. It was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Probably the most shocking of the Brontës' 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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#2  issybird 11-15-2019, 07:34 AM
It's time to discuss The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. What did we think of it?
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#3  Bookpossum 11-15-2019, 08:06 AM
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 Brontë 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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#4  gmw 11-15-2019, 08:51 AM
I'm still struggling to finish it. Time has been short and the book has been hard work. Anne Brontë 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).
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#5  Victoria 11-15-2019, 09:05 AM
Quote Bookpossum
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 Brontë‘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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#6  Victoria 11-15-2019, 09:16 AM
Quote gmw
I'm still struggling to finish it. Time has been short and the book has been hard work. Anne Brontë 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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#7  Catlady 11-15-2019, 12:09 PM
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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#8  CRussel 11-15-2019, 01:21 PM
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 Brontë 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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#9  Catlady 11-15-2019, 04:47 PM
Quote CRussel
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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#10  Bookpossum 11-15-2019, 06:24 PM
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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