Just as Anne had to use a male pseudonym in order to publish, Helen Graham, the novel's protagonist and a battered wife, must assume an alias in order to gain freedom from her suffering. With her young child, Helen takes up residence at Wildfell Hall, shrouding her past in secrecy, yet earning the attentions of a young, unmarried country gentlemen. Anne Brontë employs the atmosphere of the bleak Yorkshire moors and the cold, rugged gloom of the fictional mansion to set the stage for a tragedy that reveals the secret violence in a society considered well-mannered.
(P)1998 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"Frederick Davidson and Nadia May take the roles of the storytellers, and they do an excellent job of portraying both the male and female voices....The choice to use both male and female narrators was a good one, enlivening the story and underlining the differences between the sexes in Victorian England." (AudioFile)
The Bronte sisters' stories have a darkness about them. Not surprising perhaps during a period when death lurked in the fogs and chill of night taking persons away without notice. Life expectancy was thirty or forty The greatest killer of women was childbirth. This darkness runs throughout works such as Wuthering Heights, Shirley, The Professor, Villette, Jane Eyre and of course Anne Brontes' Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Beautiful and brilliant ballrooms, great mansions, jewels, fine gowns, magnificent carriages, everything that wealth can provide is the background of this beautiful princess meets handsome prince, princess marries prince, princess then founds prince falls considerable short of her expectations, then prince dives headlong into the cesspools of London and the continent. Girl becomes a woman and takes command of her situation and with her young son runs hiding in the old dilapidated mansion, Wildfell Hall.
Frederick Davidson and Nadia May did a magnificent job. This is a hard book. One cannot love this book. It is the dark underbelly of upper class British society in the 17-1800's. So glittering and splendid, so debauched beneath the surface. Except for the leading lady and man, I hate, despise, detest most of the characters in this book. Yet, I have gone though the book again and again. When the horrors of what Nadia May reads overwhelms, the calm, aristocratic, matter-of-fact voice of Frederick Davidson soothes and bring one back to peace and tranquility
Fortunately Bronte stories end much better and much happier than the above description would lead one to expect. Well, this one ends well for the woman and her child. As for the husband, not so well but frankly good riddance.
I really enjoyed this rendition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Using a male and a female reader for the different voices really worked well. Each of the actors who read were very skilled at becoming the different characters. I highly recommend this version.
Narrative makes the world go round.
While there are a couple of painfully melodramatic passages, this is much more than a standard 19th century romance because of its candid observations of alcoholism and co-dependency (about 125 years before the latter term was coined). I don't think there is an earlier detailed portrait of alcoholism in Brit Lit, and that by later Victorian Anthony Trollope in "Dr Thorne" is not as detailed--and certainly doesn't show the wife's role in any detail. I wish more high schools included this in curriculum rather than the twisted emotional relationships in sister Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights," romantized as love by many readers. I read (and forgot) "Tenant" many years ago, but appreciated the audiobook much more than the paper version.
I realize that Daivdson and May are not everyone's favourite narrators, but they are mine, especially for 19th century prose. They make the multi-claused sentences flow pleasingly. I postposed listening to this because I dislike "full cast" type readings; however, to my delight the narration is structured by voice in the literary sense rather than by gender of character in dialogue. Davidson reads a great chunk of material alternated by May, rather than quick back-and-forth dialogue. Much of the novel is in epistolary format (diaries as well as letters).
This novel was way ahead of its time. To our modern sensibilities, we may wonder why the lead character put up with her husband so long. But put it in 19th Century context, and we're struck by how remarkable was her streak of independence. Readers of the time were shocked the themes, and the novel was not considered appropriate reading for ladies. It deals with "modern" themes -- alcohol abuse, infidelity, and codependence.
Some have drawn similarities between the husband character and Mr. Darcy in Jane Eyre. But I think it's the female lead in this story that is similar to Mr. Darcy. Like Darcy, she's a mysterious character, haunted by her past. I'll say no more about that to avoid a spoiler!
Yes, this was a good book.
I like how there ending is wrapped up, and that you get a sense of what happens after the book.
The accents are very good, and read well.
The resolution toward the end puts my mind as ease.
If you like classics, you will like this book.
I was surprised at how well written this was - the Bronte religious background shows - The "however" is that our hero seems kind of creepy at times - somewhat selfish and self-serving.
I liked the recording. I am a fan of Frederick Davis as a narrator. The only problem I had with his reading was near the end, when the voice Davis uses for Helen in a serious conversation starts to sound like the voice he uses for reading comic/sappy female characters in P.G. Wodehouse stories.
I wasn't too satisfied with the story. The epistolary format, or I guess the occasional reminders that Anne Bronte was writing an epistolary novel, created unncessary interruptions to the flow, and seemed very forced and fake. The characters are all so flawed I couldn't like any of them, and that made it hard to hang in through to the end. After rising to a worrying/ interesting dramatic moment, the story flops its way to a predictible ending.
The book is narrated from the alternating points of view of male and female narrators, so it helps that the audiobook has two alternating readers. Hearing the male and female voices makes the novel better as an audiobook than as a book to read. Unfortunately, though, it is a minor novel. It feels repetitive, dated, dull. There are better choices out there.
Listening to this brought a pall over me -combined with admiration for Helen. Thankfulness that I do not live in that era where women were something to be owned. Despite the depressing negative conversations between Helen and Arthur, the light of her strength and determination was so eloquently expressed it made the story magnetic.
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