Rated: 4 stars
The 6th book of my summer reading challenge was a quick read. I believe this is my first novel by Anne, though I’m never quite sure which of the Brontë sisters I’m reading. I pledge to be mindful of that in the future and to read more of their works.
I quite enjoyed this short novel, though I was dubious about it at the start. Governesses and the horror stories of the classrooms are not my favourite topic. Yet the book that I got as part of an especially thrifty set was waiting on my bookshelf for far too long, so I fortified myself and opened it.
The first few chapters and the Bloomfields made me wary of continuing since all my dark expectations seemed to be proven true. I shuddered at the children’s cruelty to animals and people alike. I was horrified at the parents’ conduct and the devilish nature of these children. Perhaps that explains why I don’t particularly wish to have kids yet, though mine would certainly be in danger of too much discipline rather than the opposite. What is true, however, is that I’d tell the parents exactly what I thought of them and the ‘darlings’.
If children misbehave and parents do nothing, I’m bound to speak up soon enough. That might earn me a few dark looks and impertinent remarks from the children, but they know all too well that I’m not to be crossed. Children want order more than disorder and they will be more grateful to you in the long run for giving them clear boundaries. I do understand children are fond of playing games and pulling pranks and I’m quick to join the fun, but once I declare the joke to be over it must stop.
No sign of this here and Agnes is far too bothered by being a good servant to deviate and make her life a bit easier. When the story moved to her next situation as a governess, I was eager to read more. It was a relief since she was soon left with only two teenage girls as pupils. It was clear by then that we are working towards a happy ending for Agnes. It is a cliché storyline, but considering the time and society this is placed in, it is quite a delightful read. I liked the low key wooing by the new curate and how she comes out of her shell a bit.
I did not particularly care for the religious overtones. It was not a big enough failing to justify another star reduction. So, 4 stars it remains for now.
The Murray girls she takes care of for the next few years of her life were the product of their parents’ neglect, both stupid in their own way, and self-centred. The comeuppance for the vanity and cruelty of the eldest was a harsh one though. I pity the girl for marrying a man she clearly does not like least of all love. She would have been far happier with someone else; perhaps her first suitor would be a match for her flirtatious nature?
Agnes was too timid at times, but that did not bother me too much. If she were a contemporary heroine then I’d be annoyed; being a product of the early 19th century she gets some slack from my side. Especially since she reminds me of Fanny Price (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen) in some key aspects, I can’t find too much fault in her. Perhaps I’m in a forgiving mood.