I picked this up at the library after an internal conversation that went something like this, “Oh yeah, the Bronte sisters… Wait, there was Charlotte, who wrote Jane Eyre… Emily wrote Wuthering Heights and … Who was the third sister? What did she write?” (then, after a very brief catalog search) “Oh yeah! Anne! And… hmm… (looking at the list) I haven’t heard of those books…” (searching the stacks) “I guess I’ll read this one.”

So, after such a discerning selection process, it’s hardly a surprise that I have mixed feelings about this book, so far. The dramatic irony is sometimes a little much as I anticipate various characters making terrible decisions and abusing each other and themselves. And yet, it has had me tied to the couch, turning pages and drinking pot after pot of tea.

Mostly, I think I am fascinated by early examples of feminism that appear in the book. Most of these are relating to the female protagonist’s ability to stand up to her lowlife husband, both in domestic matters and in matters of temperance (one of the major issues for first wave feminists). Still, I feel helpless for Helen as I read things like this, in the mouth of an only slightly degenerate male character talking about a wife: “I must have somebody that will let me have my own way in everything – not like your wife [he is speaking of Helen]… she looks as if she had a will of her own… I must have some good, quiet soul that will let me do what I like and go where I like, keeping at home or staying away, without a word of reproach or complaint; for I can’t do with being bothered.”

ps. The other book I was reading,  Bright Earth, is pretty dry. I don’t think I’m going to be able to trudge through it.