Becky’s Two Hundred and Eighty-Fourth Book Review: “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Brontë

There is something about the Brontë sisters and their writing that I simply cannot get enough of, so when the Wall Street Journal Book Club chose “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Brontë several months ago, I jumped at the chance to read it. It’s a longer book, but highly enjoyable with two main characters – Helen, the tenant, and Gilbert, one of the people that lives in the village near Wildfell Hall.

In a town where everyone knows everyone, a new arrival at Wildfell Hall cannot pass unnoticed. When Helen comes to this quiet place, she initially pushes everyone away. In general, she ignores all typical manners and expectations and is generally thought to be rude. Gilbert meets her and finds himself fascinated. Not just by the woman, but the story he knows she is hiding, and so he pursues her relentlessly until she makes him promise that he is after no more than her friendship, only adding to her mystery. The interactions between these two characters are quite entertaining. He of course knows nothing of who she really is and that makes him all the more determined to befriend her and gain her trust. This interaction happens in the first part of “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”. In the second half, we learn a great deal more about Helen and how and why she came to Wildfell hall. It is a very intriguing story and it only adds to the strength of Helen as a character.

Part of what makes this a good read is the depth of Helen as a character. On the surface, she seems to be a very rude woman that wants simply to keep to herself, and indeed that is how she comes off to many of the villagers. But as the story unfolds and we learn more about why Helen is the way she is, it becomes clear that she is not only a fascinating character, but also a strong one. The general attitude towards women in this novel is from a time when women were expected to serve their husbands and that was that. This was reflected well when Gilbert’s mother was talking to him: “Then, you must fall each into your proper place. You’ll do your business, and she, if she’s worthy of you, will do hers; but it’s your business to please yourself, and hers to please you. I’m sure your poor, dear father was as good a husband as ever lived, and after the first six months or so were over, I should as soon have expected him to fly, as to put himself out of his way to pleasure me. He always said I was a good wife, and did my duty; and he always did his – bless him! – he was steady and punctual, seldom found fault without a reason, always did justice to my good dinners, and hardly ever spoiled my cookery by delay – and that’s as much as any woman can expect of any man.” (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, pg 54). Having that attitude so prominently displayed also allows for the strength of Helen to shine through so much more. A strong female protagonist is what you will often find in the novels of the Brontë sisters.

Would I recommend this book? Not to everyone. There are some readers that do not have the patience for Anne Brontë’s prose. There are times when her writing goes on about a subject and could be difficult to digest. That being said, I think she writes beautifully. Her characters are intriguing and well developed. I would certainly read this again. But her writing is not for everyone. Still, if you’re looking for a book to push yourself I highly recommend “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Brontë.

Becky’s Two Hundredth Book Review: “The Doll” by Taylor Stevens

“The Doll” by Taylor Stevens is the third book in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series and it is just as good, if not better, as the first two books in the series. What great about this series is, although ideal to read it in the order that it was written, you can still pick up the third book in the series and enjoy it without wondering what is going on.

“The Doll” starts off with Bradford looking out the window and witnessing Munroe being taken. He has no idea who took her or why, but he is determined to get her back. Having read the first two books in the series, we know that Munroe is not the kind of woman that needs rescuing, but that doesn’t stop Bradford from doing everything in his power to get answers. Once he learns that Logan – the only person that Munroe cares deeply for – has also been taken, Bradford understands that someone is planning on taking advantage of the unique skills that Munroe has by using Logan against her. “Vanessa Michael Munroe was a killer with a predator’s natural instincts; she could take care of herself. What scared him – terrified him – was what would happen if she was pushed too far. He’d seen that place of destruction, had witnessed firsthand what the darkness could do to her mind…” (The Doll, pg 11). Throughout the book Bradford is racing against a clock, knowing that the longer she is out there, the longer that Logan is out there, the more likely she will lose herself again. “The Doll” was a real page-turner.

I think that Munroe is an awesome character. She is strong, kickass, and at the same time, she is haunted by the lives that she has taken. She feels madness creeping up inside her, and despite how much she fights it down, it continues try to devour her. I like the fact that Munroe understands the toll that it takes on her own soul to take a life and therefore, doesn’t do so lightly. “Hands to her head, face to the stone, screaming without sound, she pushed back hard. For nine months she’d tasted happiness, a chance at the closest thing she’d known to peace and a real life. For nine months the rage and violence that had defined so many of her years had finally ebbed, and now those who had no right had come with impunity to nip her out of this newfound calm, throwing her into an impossible situation where no matter what she did or what she chose, the end result would be a return to madness.” (The Doll, pg 47). I loved this quote. I think that it not only describes how Munroe thinks and behaves, but also showcases Taylor Stevens’ writing, which I really enjoy.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I am a big fan of the Vanessa Michael Munroe series. What makes these books unique is Munroe. She’s an awesome character with unique abilities that to most people would seem superheroesk. She is resilient, but she knows that she pays a price for what she does. “…survival and instinct that had made her who she was, and the unique set of skills both inborn and man-made that, once combined, had both blessed and very nearly destroyed her life.” (The Doll, pg 150). I think that Taylor Stevens’ writing has grown stronger with each book, and in turn, made Munroe a more developed and intriguing character. I am really excited that a new Vanessa Michael Munroe books is going to be released at the end of June. “The Mask” will be the fifth book in the series and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!