Urgh. Longest title ever, amiright??
Also, to pre-warn you: this post is a little bit sweary. Not really sure why… maybe Classic lit just brings out the uncultured swine in me?
1. Oh, I LOVE how the Victorian writers feel the need to give their novels purpose by pretending they’re letters to some vague acquaintance. Can you imagine writing a 480 page letter about your wife’s harrowing past to some bloke who’s mildly offended with you for not telling him all about your past? But that’s the context that we’re given, regardless.
2. So I know I’m not supposed to like Helen yet, but I do. She’s opinionated and obstinate and spends her life actively avoiding people. She’s like me, but… grumpier, if possible.
3. Not going to lie, my favourite parts of Classic novels are the bits related to the Victorian social scene. I love me a little bit of gossip and a thinly veiled insult!
4. Ahhhhh, how cute is Arthur? He’s just a five year old who loves his mummy and some dogs. So sweet!
5. I do like the fact that the narrator/love interest is a bit of a knob. Markham’s no hero to rescue Helen: he’s just a well meaning but flawed man.
6. Oh look, here’s a misunderstanding to fuel an argument and create romantic tension, because that’s NEVER been used as a plot device in a Victorian novel before.
7. Now we have an abrupt switch to Helen’s pov… through Markham’s letter. So it’s Markham recounting Helen’s writing in her diary, before he even knew her. It’s all a little bizarre and jarring.
8. Shocker: young Helen is too headstrong to listen to her well meaning Aunt’s advice and marries the wrong guy. (Having said that, she had to choose between an old, ugly bore and a charming handsome ‘gentleman’. Neither option had a happily ever after for her.)
9. PB take note: if we are married you are never allowed to leave me for three months to go boozing and drugging and prostituting in London. That is just not acceptable behaviour. (Why was it okay then? Urgh, patriarchal society makes me sad).
10. How are the Victorian’s so blase about childbirth? They’re all like: ‘a year ago I was a newly wed. Now I am an experienced wife. My husband is a dick. Oh, and I popped out a baby. Probably could have mentioned that I was 9 months pregnant in the last chapter, but… no biggie.’
11. Oh noes, here’s the adultery. I hate adultery. Hate it even more when it’s essentially the man’s RIGHT to have a mistress, and the wife just has to put up with it.
12. Domestic abuse in the Victorian era is horrific. Genuinely not sure if I can continue reading this…
13. I’m also really loving the redemption theme that runs parallel to Helen’s story. Millicent’s husband turns out to be rather lovely, in the end.
14. F*ck, there’s an attempted rape scene. Were women even allowed to talk about such things back then? Anne Bronte was a brave lady, that’s for sure.
15. Actually, the escape scene was rather more simplistic than I’d expected. But they’re free, and that’s adorable.
16. Ummmm… why were Victorians such martyrs? Helen basically says: ‘you know my secret and you know that I’m in love with you, so never contact me again even though you are the main source of happiness in my life.’ Yeah. Logical.
17. HELEN, WHY YOU GO BACK TO HIM??????
18. Oh, and look: even on his deathbed, he’s STILL a twat. What a knobhead.
19. AWWWWW. It’s okay, guys. There’s a fairytale ending.
So this was actually kind of a cheat, because I half-read Tenant a few years ago (I got up to point 13 and then DID DNF). But I wasn’t blogging then, so I’ve never reviewed it, or finished it until now. I’m actually really pleased that I did pick it up again, because it’s probably been my favourite read of the month! Tenant is very easy to read, as Classics go; there’s an emotive subject and engaging characters and depravity and… yeah, it’s just really, really good. I’m actually quite surprised at how relevant it is today – no, women aren’t forced to marry now, and yes, they can file for divorce, but domestic abuse and alcoholism are things that we still hear about all the time.
Actually, I have a bit of an issue now, in that Anne Bronte maaaay have overtaken Charlotte as my fave author… hmmph.
Have you read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? Or will you? What were your thoughts?