Everyone loves a good bonnet, but if you’re weary of Wuthering Heights or feeling jaded by Jane Eyre, here’s an alternative from the ‘other’ Brontë: Anne.
Gilbert Markham:A young single farmer whose epistolary narrative provides details of his meeting an elusive widow and their subsequent love affair.
Helen Graham : The mysterious widow. Strong and pious, desperately wanting to protect her only son from his alcoholic father.
Arthur Huntingdon: Graham’s husband, an appalling alcoholic.
Eliza Millward: Markham’s one-time amour, replaced by the widow. Stirs up vicious rumours about Graham as revenge.
Markham makes Graham’s acquaintance after she moves into a rambling mansion in a small country village, before it is scandalously revealed that – rather than being a widow as claimed – she has fled her abusive husband Arthur Huntingdon, and created a new life for herself at Wildfell Hall, with the help of her brother Frederick.
Markham’s affections remain constant even after the shocking revelation that Graham is still married, and eventually, the lovers finally reconcile and they marry.
Ultimately Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a considerably happier and much less melodramatic than anything Brontë’s two older sisters wrote. It has often been hailed as one of the first feminist novels and comments, rather scandalously for the time, on the trials and tribulations of women effectively bound to their husbands legally and socially.