The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë, Deborah Lutz The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a well-paced, fascinating read. It is a framed novel, told through letter correspondence between the main character, Gilbert, and his unseen friend. Gilbert starts the novel by writing to his friend about the new tenant living in town, a single woman with a child who works as an artist for a living. I found Gilbert very likeable. He is a charming lowerclass/middleclass man, someone who has a good reputation in society but also works in the fields for a living. He has a few woman, who he later refers to as childish girls, interested in him and who he takes a passing interest in himself. However he seems to operate outside of the romantic sphere until he meets Mrs. Graham, the tenant in question. Mrs. Graham and Gilbert's exchanges are much more realistic than the forced-chemistry of other Victorian novels. They actually talk about their interests; Mrs. Graham debates with Gilbert and demands to be treated as an equal. I also felt like there were higher stakes in this novel than in the other Bronte novels I've read. Characters spend more time hashing things out using reason --rather than justifying their dangerous actions after-the-fact. (This is in no way a comparison of other Bronte books.) Mrs. Graham's situation is very serious, and she breaks the law in living the way she does. I applaud Anne Bronte for writing a character like that. My one issue with this book is the frame. It just doesn't sound like a letter. The dialogue is too particular, and the specific details of in-the-moment interactions wouldn't be remembered when writing about it in a letter. I know that it's a minute detail, but it just irked me every time the letter was mentioned.