30 August 2009
Anna, Emily, Betsy-Tacy, and zombies
Jane Eyre has been one of my touchstones since I was quite, quite young. Until recently, Charlotte was the only Brontë I ever had read with pleasure. (I loathe Wuthering Heights. Always have. Always will.)
I just finished Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë, the youngest and most gentle Brontë. Her novels should not be read with the expectation of finding the temptestuous attributes of Emily, or the fury and passion of Charlotte. Thank goodness! What Anne Brontë brings to the reader is exquisite observation of the small issues, the details that delineate all societies and relationships.
There is no tramping across moors or flying into rages for Agnes Grey. Instead, the young, sheltered woman decides to go into the world, work as a governess, and save her family from financial collapse. Although she is well-educated, the first position she takes is disastrous because the children are hellspawn - completely uncontrollable, cruel, sneaky hellspawn. Poor Agnes is fired. (The children reminded me of the Gremlins in the toy store. Pretty close!)
Agnes goes home to recover, but she is game, and soon accepts another position. The children here are less demonic, and Agnes remains with the family for several years. The child whose selfishness is impossible to temper grows into the most heartless, flirtatious wench this side of Scarlett O'Hara, but quiet Agnes meets a man whose character and heart inspire her to wish for appreciation and love. Even the most passive, meek woman can change a world.
Since I did mention the other Brontë sisters, I should write a little about Emily's Ghost by Denise Giardina. I wish I were more familiar with the biographies of the other sisters (as well as the dissolute Branwell) because the Emily I met in this novel was so sympathetic, and the Charlotte so silly and man-crazy, that I can not sort out the details. Giardina's descriptions are so vivid that you can see Emily's merlin fly across the skies over the moors and feel the heat from the hearth.
Thanks to Jennifer, Book Club Girl, I have begun to read the Betsy-Tacy books. Midway through the first, I am in love with these little girls. Betsy's genuine desire for a friend cracks through Tacy's shyness, Betsy's loyalty enables Tacy to endure the first day of school, and the girls unfurl their imaginations to soar on a feather to visit the beautiful world they hope to see. I thought of Anne Shirley as I read. These girls could be her younger sisters, joining Anne in her fantasies and exuberance (but keeping themselves a bit more centered...)
Jennifer is hosting Betsy-Tacy Convert Week, which will begin on 9.28. Head on over if you'd like to be converted - or just to reminisce.
I seem to have run out of time for zombies. ("No time for zombies" - was that a tv show?) Tune in again...