My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Agnes Grey follows a governess with the same name as she serves in two middle class families. The children are spoiled. Her position is precarious. Through Agnes, Anne Brontë explores the position of nineteenth century middle class women.
The thing that struck me most about Agnes Grey is how different it is from any of her sisters’ books (Emily and Charlotte). While the latter have many romanticized elements, the former is firmly grounded in realism. The families Agnes works for are not romanticized.
In fact, there is a subtle critique of Victorian society. The children are monsters and the parents uninvolved. Agnes feels the frustration of her position and the cruelty of her employers.
Still she resolves to make her own way, with her own skills and hard work. Agnes does not reach a fuller development like many contemporary heroines. She is held back from developing to her full potential because of the society around her and the precarious economic position she is in.
Anne Brontë’s prose is quiet good, simple and straightforward. It is definitely not overwrought or flowery in any way.
Bottom Line: Read Agnes Grey alongside Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights to see the difference between romantic Emily and Charlotte and realistic Anne Brontë. Enjoy the excellent prose too.