THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERSI read this one back in 2014, and I've decided to share the review I wrote back then.
Agnes Grey has, no doubt, Anne Brontë's mark, in the feminist tone, defending women, that she uses from start to finish. The heroine, Agnes, is the daughter of a humble family, she doesn't know many luxuries, and in the time of need, she insists on making her own living, working as a governess, in a time in which a working woman was synonymous with poverty.
I must say that the best character was Agnes' mother; she seemed a lot stronger than her husband, and ahead of her time, especially when she suggests that her daughters don't need to get married to be happy. She's a determined, willful woman, something she transmits it to both Agnes and Mary, and she follows her heart. There were two moments I particularly liked about her: one, when her husband worries about money and wonders what will happen with his wife and daughters when he passes away, and she tells her that how can he think that, if the pain of losing him would be bigger than any material deprivings. And the other, that she's not worried about ending up in misery, because as long as she has two hands and her own will, she would use them to earn her living, the same as her daughters. That is the thinking of a woman ahead of her time, don't you think?
As for Agnes, well... she's very mature for her age, humble, hard-working, and willful. But I feel she lacked depth as a character. She's always in the victim part. It is true that the governess in a big household was, most of the times, treated as a servant, and she couldn't rebel or protest if she wanted to keep her position; that nor the Bloomfields or the Murrays were delicate with her (especially the Bloomfields, I myself don't know what would I have done with such terrible kids), but Agnes rarely has faults. She doesn't seem to make mistakes. She suffers, but she bears it because she knows her salary will help her family, and altogether, the character has a lot of Puritanism in it. And, as I said before, that seems to be a trademark in the Brontës' work; both Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Anne's Helen Graham have that feature of women who suffer in silence, with no one there to care for them, but when they do something to change their stars, there the rest of the world realizes how important they were and that they shouldn't have been ignored.
The love story was... how can I say it? Nice, but not completely satisfying. I like Edward Weston's Christian attitude, that she sees surprised, and likes it; although she falls in love with him, she keeps it to herself, and in despite that the Murray sisters mock her and laugh about it, nothing he says or does makes Agnes think he returns her feelings. Which leads me again to my previous point, with Agnes always in the victim part. However, she knows Edward well, and when Rosalie Murray, who knows herself beautiful and believes herself to be irresistible, says she wants to make Edward fall in love with her and then break his heart, to tick every single man on the county out of her list, Agnes is not afraid. She knows a man like him is too smart and superior as to feel atraction towards a shallow fool as Rosalie. But even so... It didn't convince me. To love each other as they did, Agnes and Edward's relationship lacked passion, plain and simple. All of the sudden he appears at the school and asks her to marry him, without further ado, no tears, no kiss... I'm not saying the book is bad because of that. I know that giving us such a scene is not its point. I just mention it because I would have like it if there was some more feelings developed in that scene. After all, you are talking about two people who love each other deeply, and I, as a reader, have to believe it, right?
Oh, and Rosalie Murray is a whole case on herself, a lesson for life and marriage. She got married without any love for her fiance, on a whim, wanting only to be mistress of Ashby Park, and it had consequences. She paid the price of her frivolity, her flirting and her immaturity. She didn't even bear the sight of the man she would spend the rest of her life with, and I was surprised and angry when she said she had a daughter, and the good thing was that she didn't had to take care of her, because she had servants to do it for her. How can anyone live like that?
In short, it is a good book, a classic that deserves a reading, although, from Anne Brontë's work, I liked The Tenant a Wildfell Hall a lot more. Do not deprive yourself of reading it, especially if you like classics; the Brontë sisters wrote all of their books of great quality, and this one is not the exception.