I tried to read this first a number of years ago around the time I read Jane Eyre but just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps I was too young. Just because you are able to read a book, doesn’t mean your ready for it. I decided it was time to give it another shot.
When the mysterious Mrs Graves arrives at Wildfell Hall, she causes great speculation among the local residents and she captivates Mr Markham. Who is she? Where has she come from? What is she hiding?
It is impossible not to compare this to her sisters work. In terms of style it shares a lot of similarities with both, particularly Charlotte, though there are elements we also see in Emily’s work. The gothic houses and moors, which are less evident in Jane Eyre, and the style of narration told from the perspective of Gilbert Markham and Helen’s diary rather then directly from Helen’s. However there the similarity ends. Like Jane Eyre (which I love) it is generally calmer and less melodramatic then Wuthering Heights (which I can’t abide).
The characters are for the most part likeable, and we can sympathise with them. Helen, like Jane, is a good girl who has had a hard life. She most overcome these obstacles, and resist temptation, clinging to her faith in the hope she may one day find happiness. However Helen is less perfect than Jane. The hardships in her life are partly of her own making. She shunned the advice of her aunt and to a certain extant ignored her better judgment, blinded by the flush of first ‘love’. It’s something many of us run foul off, though thankfully with less terrible consequences. The result is she is more relatable. Both Huntingdon and Markham also less extreme then either Rochester or Heathcliff. Huntingdon is selfish and an alcoholic, making him cruel but not a psychopath, and Markham though passionate never contemplates forcing the woman he loves to do anything to which she would morally object.
My one issue with it was I felt the section told via Helen’s was slightly longer then required. It could have been shortened and still conveyed how terrible Helen’s life had been. I was eager for the action to return to the relationship between Helen and Markham, which is what really interested me.
Overall while I enjoyed it more then Wuthering Heights though didn’t love it as much as Jane Eyre, for all the characters are more relatable.