4 out of 5* for Agnes Grey.
A very sweet, clean and interesting love story. No exuberance of emotions and no unnatural and profane declarations in this book! Initially I found it a bit dull and was losing my patience with the lengthened descriptions of her situation. But then, on second thoughts these were the views of a young, naïve and overly protected girl suddenly exposed to the shocking behaviours of society. So naturally she is bound to dwell on the fairly newer aspects of the occurrences in her life which had taken her by surprise with much partiality. So, I thought one needs to have patience and understand the sentiments of the writer and then peruse the story!
The story deals with the struggles and wishes of a young girl in difficult circumstances, Agnes Grey, who is trying to prove to her friends that she too can become a support to the family while also cherishing the wish to go out and experience the world. It is her narrative and tells the story from her point of view. Initially it is about her situation as a governess and then later on it moves alongside with that theme towards her growth of feelings, affections and hopes for Mr. Weston who is the only person who ever shows her any kindness.
The humiliations and derogatory treatment suffered by governesses in that day and age is very evident through the descriptions. It really does touch a reader tenderly. As I said earlier, there cannot be seen any profusions of sentiments, and the relationship between the protagonists is of a very pure, calm and understanding love. Very beautifully portrayed. Agnes Grey and Edward Weston both are very serene and composed characters, very sensible, thoughtful and perfectly suited to each other. Agnes is very natural throughout; even the negative thoughts and feelings which come to her mind are detailed in this narrative, lending it a very natural hue.
Among the secondary characters, Miss Rosalie Murray is the most interesting. She is thoughtless, artful and selfish, exceedingly vain too, but in some nook of her heart there is some realization present. Her temperamental swings have been captured very well. And her parallel story gives much substance to the book.
Also, the issue of violence against animals was very marked throughout the book and I found it very commendable of the author to have dealt with it keeping in mind the period in which this book was written, at which time it was incumbent upon the writer to use a pen name to put her work forward.
I found the thoughts expressed as very judgmental at some places and greatly moralizing and that is the reason my rating was not a 5*. But overall it was a very likable story. Anything below the 4* I have chosen to give to a Bronte book would be very presumptuous of me I believe!