by Anne Brontë
I wonder how many of you were expecting to see Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights when you saw the name Brontë. Don't get me wrong, Charlotte and Emily are literary geniuses in their own right - although nothing is ever going to make me see Heathcliff as a romantic hero - but the youngest Brontë, Anne, is forgotten far too often.
Unlike her sisters, who drew upon elements of the Gothic for their work, Anne was much more interested in society and, in particular, society's attitudes towards women in the 19th century.
Agnes Grey follows the titular character who decides to become a governess in order to support her family when they suddenly find themselves destitute. Much like Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey explores the role of the governess in 19th century society and how these women were treated by their employers and the other people around them, but Anne expands this to look at how women of all classes are treated poorly through Agnes's relationship with Rosalie Murray.
It's not a book for everyone; it's quiet and subtle in its message, but it's a pure joy to read, as well as being one of the only Brontë novels to include a love interest who isn't as problematic as Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester are...