I’ve been going full steam ahead on research for the next stand alone novel, so all of my leisure reading has been focused around the late 1840s. Luckily for me, it was a particularly fertile literary period.
— Anne Bronte, Agnes Grey.
You know my thing for governess books, right? I’ve heard Agnes Grey referred to as the less appealing younger sister of Jane Eyre and I’m forced to admit that I agree. Jane might be principled, but she was seldom this prim; of firm morals, but not moralizing. What the book does do splendidly is convey vivid visual images of small town life in the period, from the great estate into which Agnes’s former charge, Rosalie marries (but which, of course, fails to make her happy), to the long and muddy walk back from church along country lanes.
— Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton.
This book was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t expected to enjoy something that was billed as a “State of England” novel, a rumination on the plight of the poor mill workers in Manchester, but Gaskell’s engaging prose and vividly drawn characters carry it along. I will admit, I had some thoughts of North and South while reading it, because you can very much see where the later book came from while reading Gaskell’s earlier novel.
Next up? I’m choosing between Jane Eyre, Thackeray’s The Newcomes (which is a few years too late for me, but possibly more in the milieu of the people I’m writing about), and Anne Bronte’s more controversial work, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Once I’m done with my early Victorian reading orgy, I’m going to treat myself to some new releases. And by new, I mean post-1848. Possibly even 2012.
What have you been reading?