Anne Brontë's first novel is the compelling autobiographical tale of a young woman desperately seeking a place in the world
When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes's enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë's first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.
Her unsentimental novels tackled topics like emotional abuse and gaslighting centuries ahead of their time. As her bicentenary passes, it’s time to revaluate ‘the other Brontë sister’.
From Marmee or Offred, writers have been inspired to create some of our most cherished and memorable characters through the lens of motherhood. Here we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite mothers, and depictions of motherhood, in classic literature.