06 April 2010

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Late last night, after seeing Duke beat Butler, i finished the last 2 chapters of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.  I am liking the majority of what i'm reading from the 1k1 list by women, though i must shout again that i hated Wuthering Heights

The story begins as a letter.  Gilbert Markham writes to a long time friend, telling him about Markham's youth.  Markham describes how a young widow, Helen Graham, moves with her son and a single servant into an old, decaying home, Wildfell Hall.  Markham falls for the widow, who resists him at first but later begins to share his feelings.  The more she cares the more she seems to pull away, until she gives Markham her diary to read. 

When Helen was a young woman of 19 she marries Arthur Huntington, sure that he's a good man whose slightly wild ways she can tame.  After her marriage and the first several months of happiness, which seem to involve Helen doing everything she can to amuse Huntington, they have a son, Arthur Jr.  Huntington's behavior after that gets worse and worse;  he spends months alone in London carousing during the Season, then brings his cronies back home for the hunting season.  Helen discovers he's having an affair with the wife of one of his friends, even having a child with the other woman.   She takes all of this behavior but when Huntington starts trying to make Jr. into his image, teaching him to drink and swear at the age of about 4, Helen decides to make her escape to save her son from his father. 

I found Tenant a little religious but otherwise very good.  Helen wants Huntington to reform to save his immortal soul first, then to be healthy and happy in this life.  You feel very badly for Helen throughout the portion of the book that contains her diary.  She starts out so naive and tries so hard to please her husband.  Why he choose to get married i never did figure out.  Helen was respectable but not noble and not really rich so the only reason i came up with was that he decided it was time to get an heir. 

Overall i give this one a 6.  It counts for the Classics Challenge and is one off my 1k1 list. 

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