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Villette (Illustrated with Notes and Biography)

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Villette is an 1853 novel by Charlotte Brontë. After an unspecified family disaster, the protagonist Lucy Snowe travels from England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls' school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. Villette was Charlotte Brontë's fourth novel. It was preceded by the posthumously published The Professor, her Villette is an 1853 novel by Charlotte Brontë. After an unspecified family disaster, the protagonist Lucy Snowe travels from England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls' school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. Villette was Charlotte Brontë's fourth novel. It was preceded by the posthumously published The Professor, her first, and then by Jane Eyre and Shirley.


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Villette is an 1853 novel by Charlotte Brontë. After an unspecified family disaster, the protagonist Lucy Snowe travels from England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls' school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. Villette was Charlotte Brontë's fourth novel. It was preceded by the posthumously published The Professor, her Villette is an 1853 novel by Charlotte Brontë. After an unspecified family disaster, the protagonist Lucy Snowe travels from England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls' school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. Villette was Charlotte Brontë's fourth novel. It was preceded by the posthumously published The Professor, her first, and then by Jane Eyre and Shirley.

30 review for Villette (Illustrated with Notes and Biography)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ginny

    Lucy Snowe hates you. She's writing her story for you, you're experiencing the most intimate contact there can be between two people, and she hates you. It makes for a hard read. Her older sister, Jane-- you remember her?-- she loved you. Most of you probably had to read her story in high school, whereas not one teacher in a thousand would touch Villette. Nor should they. High schoolers have enough rejection to cope with. Most of them were probably bored or annoyed with Jane, but you have to give Lucy Snowe hates you. She's writing her story for you, you're experiencing the most intimate contact there can be between two people, and she hates you. It makes for a hard read. Her older sister, Jane-- you remember her?-- she loved you. Most of you probably had to read her story in high school, whereas not one teacher in a thousand would touch Villette. Nor should they. High schoolers have enough rejection to cope with. Most of them were probably bored or annoyed with Jane, but you have to give the woman credit: she did love you. That one sentence: "Reader, I married him"; do you hear the love in that? She is with you, she tells it calmly and sweetly, the thing which (if you cared at all) you've been dying to hear. And she trusts that you do care. She doesn't even question it. She brings you straight into the fold, giving peace to herself, to Mr. Rochester, and to you in one quiet sentence. Not so Lucy Snowe. She is sure that you don't care, sure that you want to read some other story, that you're not tough enough or insightful enough to handle hers. So she hides from you, and sneers at you from behind her hands. She clothes her reticence in language of modesty, of restraint, of sensitivity to your tender feelings, but it's very plain that the truth is much uglier: she doesn't trust you and she doesn't think you're worthy. I'm sure you can find reasons for her to be this way: she had a difficult childhood; she was repeatedly overlooked by people she adored; not enough people have cared, so she just assumes nobody does. The psychoanalysis is all very interesting and makes for some good class discussions, but it doesn't take away the bitter taste. Lucy Snowe hates you, distrusts you, looks down on you. And you, poor reader, separated by bars of space and time and reality, can't do a thing to show her she's wrong. It's a fucking brilliant book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars--a cage, so peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star.” When I was growing up in Kansas, my father farmed and worked long hours, and my mother worked the night shift at the hospital as a nurse's aide. Since my mother slept during the day, I had to be very quiet. I found that by “Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars--a cage, so peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star.” When I was growing up in Kansas, my father farmed and worked long hours, and my mother worked the night shift at the hospital as a nurse's aide. Since my mother slept during the day, I had to be very quiet. I found that by being as silent as a church mouse I achieved about the most freedom a young lad could hope to obtain. Books became my friends, and they were outwardly quiet companions, but inwardly sparked fires in my thought processes. I suppose I was lonely, more lonely when I tried to talk about books with the people I knew. It was like the excitement of finding a gold mine (books) only to discover that people preferred silver (television). Lucy Snowe, the heroine of Villette, is lonely; life whirls around her and occasionally spins her into a light that requires people to see her. She is uncomfortable, knowing she will be found lacking the qualities people admire most. She learns to live by observing others and most importantly to be quiet, to be the wallflower on the verge of participation, but never taking that tenuous step forward to join the fray. "Day-dreams are delusions of the demon." Day dreams were truly dangerous delusions for Lucy Snowe. She could not afford dreams because she could not stand the disappointment in failure to achieve those dreams. Life had to be real for Lucy. The novel begins with Lucy in the care of the Bretton's, a distant relation. She is 14, and something, never explained in the novel, has happened to her family leaving her alone in the world under the care and kindness of strangers. The reality of her situation is that she has no dowry; she is not deemed attractive, and she has few opportunities to improve her position. As she comes of age she works as a helper to an elderly, rich woman who dies leaving her again without prospects. She makes the momentous decision to move to Villette, a fictional French city, without a job or any inkling of what will become of her. Through misadventure and a bit of luck she finds herself on the doorstep of Mme. Beck's boarding school for young girls. A position is found for her teaching English to young, aristocratic girls. She is surrounded by rich people, and like a lot of wealthy people they don't understand poverty. She is asked why she teaches. "Rather for the roof of shelter I am thus enabled to keep over my head; and for the comfort of mind it gives me to think that while I can work for myself, I am spared the pain of being a burden to anybody." Lucy Snowe could have presented herself as feeble, in need of care, and her relation would have certainly come forward to help her, but she chose to make her own way, and even though she elicits pity from her young, rich students, she is determined to be independent. I couldn't help but be impressed by her determination and pride in taking care of herself. Life dealt her few cards, but what few cards she had was enough to keep her from the clutches of poverty. Lucy Snowe falls in love with the dynamic Dr. John Graham Bretton, but he is in love with one of her beautiful students Ginevra Fanshawe. Lucy convinces him not only of the immaturity of his love, but the fallacies of Miss Fanshawe. He turns his attentions for a time to Lucy and starts to send her letters. Lucy knows this is too good to be true. "Reason still whispered me, laying on my shoulder a withered hand, and frostily touching my ear with the chill blue lips of eld." Despite her best efforts Lucy can't help but hope for the fairy tale, and when Graham turns his attentions to another, she does feel the pain. The five precious letters that Graham wrote to her she symbolically buries in the bole of a tree so that she put them away from her and also keep them from the prying eyes of Mme Beck who is constantly going through the possessions of the teachers. Bronte Letter Charlotte Bronte became infatuated with a Belgian Professor and wrote him a series of love letters. He became incensed with this unsolicited attention and tore them to pieces. The professor's wife saved them from the trash and sewed them together for posterity. Here is an article giving a few more details. http://www.independent.ie/todays-pape... The wife, I can only assume, was a Bronte fan and may have been flattered that Charlotte found her husband attractive. I was rather shocked to find that Villette has not been hashed and rehashed by Hollywood. With all the films based on Jane Austen's work and on the works of the other Bronte sisters why has Villette been ignored? There was a five part mini-series back in the 1970s starring Judy Parfitt as Lucy Snowe. I couldn't find any usable stills from that series to include in my review. Netflix does not have the series available. I can only hope it has not been neglected and been allowed to disintegrate Judy Parfitt There was also a BBC radio production done in 1999 with Catherine McCormack supplying the voice of Lucy Snowe. Catherine McCormack Villette was published in 1853 and was the last novel published during her lifetime. Charlotte had finally married in 1854 and became pregnant almost immediately. She suffered from incessant nausea and frequent fainting spells. Charlotte died with her unborn child in 1855 just short of her 39th birthday. Photo of Charlotte Bronte circa 1854 Charlotte Bronte explores the psychological implications of being an outsider. The anguish, the dashing of hope, the moments of despair, and yet the haunting specter of expectations keep Lucy attempting to achieve a life filled with love and happiness. She does, as the novel concludes, get an opportunity to fulfill her dreams and gain not only independence but a chance at love. “His mind was indeed my library, and whenever it was opened to me, I entered bliss.” I have read that other reviewers felt the novel ended abruptly, and I too wanted more than just the sliver of explanation that was given at the end of the novel, but I think that has more to do with the way we feel about Lucy Snowe than it does about disappointment in Charlotte Bronte's plotting. Highly recommended. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    Still 5 stars... I loved this novel. Obsessive reader as I am, I feel simply obligated to consume all kinds of reviews and discussions after finishing a book that left me in awe and baffled. This time I even ventured into the territory of critical analyses and interpretations. Many things came up during my quest to find out what people think of the heroine of Villette and the book as a whole - that this is a novel about a woman who fights to attain her independence, that Lucy Snowe is a liar, Still 5 stars... I loved this novel. Obsessive reader as I am, I feel simply obligated to consume all kinds of reviews and discussions after finishing a book that left me in awe and baffled. This time I even ventured into the territory of critical analyses and interpretations. Many things came up during my quest to find out what people think of the heroine of Villette and the book as a whole - that this is a novel about a woman who fights to attain her independence, that Lucy Snowe is a liar, that almost all characters in the book - M. Paul, Pauline, Ginevre, Dr John - are representations of different sides of Lucy's (possibly schizophrenic) personality, that Villette is just a more depressing rehash of Jane Eyre, some other stuff that I don't even have a mental capacity to fully understand and reproduce here. But I am a simple person, for me Villette is a story of a woman who was severely traumatized by deaths of her family at a young age and who, being introverted by nature, under the pressure of her misfortunes closes herself to the outside world completely. Lucy's whole life purpose is to guard herself from possible heartbreaks, to create a facade of serenity and unfeeling. But the strength of her passionate nature, her vivid internal life are such that suppressing them is impossible. The entire book is Lucy's never ending struggle to keep up her walls, not to let anyone in, not to feel, not to hope, not to love, not to get attached, not to reveal her true self in its clever, opinionated, passionate, desiring, jealous, petty glory. Does the heroine attain her freedom in the end? Does she escape a prison of her self-imposed loneliness? Yes, she does, but not for long. The person who sees and loves Lucy the way she is, who helps her not only financially, but psychologically, is given and taken away. And once again, Lucy is guarded and telling us her story, never allowing herself and us to see the true extent of her despair, unhappiness, and loneliness. But even what is hinted at is heartbreaking. I loved this novel, loved it in spite of the numerous contrived coincidences, untranslated French dialog and sparse plot. Villette is a study of a woman's complex inner world and as such it is remarkable. However there is another (sort of voyeuristic) reason why the book affected me so much. It is claimed to be heavily autobiographical and I find myself intrigued by Charlotte Brontë. I want to know this woman. How much of the book was real? Did the extent of Charlotte's loneliness and desire to be loved matched Lucy's? Was M. Heger, her real life professor, just like M. Paul? Did he awaken her soul, played with her and then discarded her when the affair interfered with his married life? Was M. Heger's wife as manipulative as Madame Beck? Did Charlotte ever regret refusing several marriage proposals to instead pine over men utterly unattainable? Did she blame herself for her inability to be happy? Why didn't she allow Lucy her happy ending? Did she think financial security was the maximum a woman like her could ever hope for and love was impossible? I am off to try to find at least some answers to these questions...

  4. 4 out of 5

    William2

    With this, I think, fourth reading, the book reconstitutes itself utterly fresh yet familiar. I still find it surprising in ways I could not have appreciated earlier, as if another layer of the narrative complexity were revealing itself. It seems logical to reread books an author has put through multiple drafts. If reading is a parallel act of creation, rereading is to contrast multiple impressions over time. Villette is my favorite Victorian novel. The story has a long fuse, but that’s typical With this, I think, fourth reading, the book reconstitutes itself utterly fresh yet familiar. I still find it surprising in ways I could not have appreciated earlier, as if another layer of the narrative complexity were revealing itself. It seems logical to reread books an author has put through multiple drafts. If reading is a parallel act of creation, rereading is to contrast multiple impressions over time. Villette is my favorite Victorian novel. The story has a long fuse, but that’s typical of its vintage. What is atypical—and thrilling—is the manner in which the author ceaselessly unravels the skein of character, never exhausting it. Just dazzling. Here’s the romantic crux of the novel: Lucy Snowe is smart but not very attractive and she’s mad about her godmother’s son, Dr. John, who is enormously kind but really can’t give her a second thought as a love interest. At the same time, as a friend of the family, Lucy’s there to watch Dr. John pining after one woman, who’s quickly shown to be a vicious flirt, and then another, more worthy of his attentions. Amid all this Lucy Snowe insists on remaining nice. By that I mean she is fair-minded to Dr. John’s love interests, for she interacts with them in the everyday world, and despite her maddening solitude, will never turn bitter or vindictive. In fact, she’s friends with them. This makes for dramatic tension that is through-the-roof! Neither will she natter at Dr. John and plague him with her emotions; she values him too much as a friend and intellectual equal. In the end it is this stability of character, despite her overwhelming and at times soul-crushing loneliness, that is Lucy’s triumph. Though she will never see herself this way, the reader, whom she often exhorts by name, surely does. Then you have Lucy’s encounters with the not-to-be-endured M. Paul, a fellow teacher in the girls’ school, who seems to want to be the sole representative of all intellectual misogyny of his era—c. 1830. He is snide, sneering, bitter, and jealous, with an overbearing opinion about everything, especially a woman’s place in the world. He and Lucy are at a kind of constant verbal fisticuffs. We come to see him as the sad little punctilious man he is, as does the redoubtable Lucy, who is not snide or sneering or bitter, but who demands respect. Some of their exchanges become hilariously funny. Then we get M. Paul’s horrendous backstory—death of fiancé, stern Roman Catholic, etc—and we see why he is what he is. Though not a priest, M. Paul has taken a vow of celibacy. No wonder he’s so miserable! The way this tempestuous relationship contorts and resolves is a literary wonder. What a piece of shrewd insight is the indefatigable M. Paul! As a smart and resourceful woman Lucy Snowe is arguably without parallel in Victorian literature.If life be a war, it seemed my destiny to conduct it single-handed. (p. 391)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This book is better than Jane Eyre, guys. This is where Charlotte Bronte shows her real brilliance. I hovered between giving this two stars and four for about half the book because I really wasn't sure what was going on beneath the surface. But then I figured out that I was stupid and didn't see half of the things that Charlotte Bronte had done. She's brilliant. Her narrator is completely unreliable. She's a tease. She withholds. She doesn't tell us the lines we wish most to hear. She deals with This book is better than Jane Eyre, guys. This is where Charlotte Bronte shows her real brilliance. I hovered between giving this two stars and four for about half the book because I really wasn't sure what was going on beneath the surface. But then I figured out that I was stupid and didn't see half of the things that Charlotte Bronte had done. She's brilliant. Her narrator is completely unreliable. She's a tease. She withholds. She doesn't tell us the lines we wish most to hear. She deals with feelings that should have fulsome paragaphs in oblique, obscuring half sentences. Fulsome paragraphs are written on subjects that one would not think of as half so important to a ladies' novel. The nature of God, the debate between Protestantism and Catholicism, Truth and Lies, the worst faults of humankind. These are all dealt with. She's also able to switch focuses, from far away observation, as if she is telling a fairy tale, to a prose that is close and intimately involved. Existentialist thoughts wind through here, religious rebellion against the existence of God, liberation of women.. a lot of things that a woman in 1853 probably shouldn't have been writing about. Lucy Snowe, the main character and narrator, has her faults. You will want to wring her neck. Not only for what she teases us with, but what she says. Her always forebearing attitude, her martyrdom. The sense of how impressed with herself she is at times, all her protestations to the contrary. Secretly holding herself rather above the company, to steal a line from another famous female. But let's also remember that Jane Eyre isn't all that likeable for most of the book either. Lucy is as difficult to like. The end is fascinating. To give away just a little bit of the book, she does not get the ending that one expects from Romantic books. The ending is a question mark. The reader can make of it what they will. She has no illusions, but we can have ours. Her happiness is completely different: solitary, alone, quiet... it provides a fascinating read though a feminist lens. I'd say the end has a bit of a message like 'A Room of One's Own,' but decades earlier, and with an appropriate veil. Interesting to note, the same male enabler is necessary, but it meets with a different end here. Happiness is not what one thinks it is. I really do have to warn that this novel is about repression and oppression and it reads like it too. The breaks out of this endless cycle are few and far between. It can be difficult to trudge through, as difficult as it is for Lucy to make it through. I made it by figuring out how Charlotte Bronte was playing with the reader, though. Pay attention to details. She will mention them and perhaps explain them chapters later, but not connect them for us. Victorian conventions are satirized gently and taken to task. I believe Charlotte Bronte is somewhat taking herself to task for believing the ridiculous things that women were encouraged to indulge in. ... and I've just noticed that I wrote this review sounding rather like a silly victorian writer. Oops.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    891. Villette, Charlotte Brontë Villette is an 1853 novel written by English author Charlotte Brontë. After an unspecified family disaster, the protagonist Lucy Snowe travels from her native England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls' school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. Villette was Charlotte Brontë's fourth novel, it was preceded by The Professor (her posthumously published first novel, of which Villette is a reworking), Jane Eyre, and 891. Villette, Charlotte Brontë Villette is an 1853 novel written by English author Charlotte Brontë. After an unspecified family disaster, the protagonist Lucy Snowe travels from her native England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls' school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. Villette was Charlotte Brontë's fourth novel, it was preceded by The Professor (her posthumously published first novel, of which Villette is a reworking), Jane Eyre, and Shirley. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه می سال 1988 میلادی عنوان: ویلت، اثر: شارلوت برونته، ناشر: تهران، اکباتان، مترجم: فریده تیموری، سال 1365؛ عنوان: ویلت، اثر: شارلوت برونته، نشر: تهران، بینش، مترجم: فریده تیموری، سال 1369؛ عنوان: ویلت، اثر: شارلوت برونته، تهران، ناشر: نشر پیمان، مترجم: فریده تیموری، سال 1372؛ عنوان: ویلت، اثر: شارلوت برونته، ناشر: نشر نی، مترجم: رضا رضایی روایتی از مشکلات یک خانواده است. راوی و قهرمان داستان «لوسی» نام دارد، و سفرش به شهری که ساخته ذهن نویسنده است، به محور داستان تبدیل میشود. - «ویلت» عنوان چهارمین رمان منتشر شده از «شارلوت برونته»، و البته آخرین اثر، در زمان حیات ایشان نیز هست. شارلوت برونته در این اثر چنان هنرنمایی می‌کنند و چنان تأثیری بر خوانشگر خویش برجای می‌گذارند که بسیاری از نقادان آن را حتی از «جِین اِیر» هم برتر دانسته‌ اند. «دیوید لاج»، نظریه‌ پرداز ادبی و نویسنده کنونی، باور دارد که «ویلِت» پخته‌ ترین اثر «شارلوت برونته» است، و نمونه ی کلاسیکی ست، از آنچه در نقد ادبی به «آشنایی‌ زدایی» معروف است. ایشان می‌گویند: «ویلِت» کتابی است اصیل، نه به این معنا که «شارلوت برونته» چیزی ابداع کرده، که پیشینه نداشته، بلکه به این معنا که کاری کرده، تا خوانشگرها چیزها و کارها را همان‌طور که هستند، ادراک کنند، نه آن‌طور که از پیش می‌شناختند، و به آن خو گرفته‌ اند. یعنی نویسنده از شیوه‌ های مرسوم و معهود در بازنمایی واقعیت فراتر رفته است. «ویلِت» رمان تأثیرگذاری ست درباره ی فروخوردن احساس، و تاب آوردن در برابر فشارهای بی‌امان، که «لوسی اسنو (قهرمان داستان)» با چایداری و شکیبایی تحسین‌ برانگیزی آن را از سر می‌گذراند. «لوسی اسنو» نه‌ تنها با قید و بندهای نظام اجتماعی، روبرو می‌شود، بلکه در عین حال، می‌خواهد که دوست بدارد، و دوستش بدارند. ا. شربیانی

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Having read Jane Eyre recently for the first time, ...it was suggested I read Villette.... A fantastic Kindle-Freebie!!! I thought this story was terrific ...equally as good as Jane Eyre. Lucy Snowe....lonely, introverted, .....and somewhat emotionally unavailable....it's easy to feel empathy towards her... harder to understand what she is thinking. - yet...she was easy to relate to. I could understand her struggles of bumping up against isolation -- and doubting who she was. Bronte touches on Having read Jane Eyre recently for the first time, ...it was suggested I read Villette.... A fantastic Kindle-Freebie!!! I thought this story was terrific ...equally as good as Jane Eyre. Lucy Snowe....lonely, introverted, .....and somewhat emotionally unavailable....it's easy to feel empathy towards her... harder to understand what she is thinking. - yet...she was easy to relate to. I could understand her struggles of bumping up against isolation -- and doubting who she was. Bronte touches on that insecure spot inside us which we all feel at times through Lucy. Dramatic storytelling -lovely prose -and filled with thought and emotions. There were a couple of scenes where I was laughing out loud --at the same time there was sadness knowing that Lucy suffered. Her heart and spirit were good - big- yet without having a vivacious personality, or being an electric extroverted charmer....her gifts, intelligence, we're not easily visible. As the reader...we are privileged to look deeper into her soul -- We see an endearing woman - a woman with moral integrity, inner strength....but sad! Beautiful and heartbreaking.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Lucy Snowe a plain -looking quiet 23-year- old intelligent woman in need of money and help, ( stating it mildly) she has no family left in England in an era before Victoria came to the throne, her godmother Mrs. Bretton who lived in a small town ironically named Bretton, has moved to colossal London with her handsome son John Graham, no way to find the widow there. Still Lucy is not without skill, she is a capable resourceful nevertheless almost destitute lady gathering all her few pitiful coins Lucy Snowe a plain -looking quiet 23-year- old intelligent woman in need of money and help, ( stating it mildly) she has no family left in England in an era before Victoria came to the throne, her godmother Mrs. Bretton who lived in a small town ironically named Bretton, has moved to colossal London with her handsome son John Graham, no way to find the widow there. Still Lucy is not without skill, she is a capable resourceful nevertheless almost destitute lady gathering all her few pitiful coins and decides boldly to cross the English Channel to seek fortune there, in a foreign land... mad or brilliant idea the future will tell. Arriving in the exciting, prosperous, glamorous capital city of Villette , (Brussels, Belgium) searching for lodging in a recommended inn, she stumbles among the thick dark ... the black gloom the unlighted ominous roads and shadows agitated, lost...some unknown men following...coming to a rather peculiar house...knocking ...the door finally opens... This is Madame Beck's school for girls, and the owner very shrewd an attractive widow in her late 30's wants an Englishwoman to take care of her three little precious daughters, luckily Lucy gets the job, but first the unpleasant dismissal of the current holder of the position an alcoholic lady, who drank one too many bottles. In a short time another great unexpected opportunity unfolds, the English teacher doesn't show up for work Madame Beck is not happy, this has occurred too often the owner of the prestigious establishment is strict, unforgiving and the lazy teacher will be the same soon (unhappy); dragging the petrified Lucy into the classroom full of young, intimidating girls and says teach...sink or swim...she floats. The new teacher slowly begins to feel comfortable, a natural instructor has ability, the students no longer are frightening. She begins to notice a professor M.Paul Emanuel, Madame Beck's extremely knowledgeable cousin, a ferocious man all around him ... they are scared of ( make that terrified ) little in stature, but big in power. Lucy becomes quite sick the school's regular doctor is away, a young English physician treats her at his home and seems familiar, so does the furniture...yes it's John Graham Bretton and his mother her godmother, the lonely woman has friends now. More acquaintances from her youth found in Villette, little, sweet, Polly Home the six- year- old who lived in Mrs.Bretton's house a short time and her rich father also, is now 17 a countess with new names, de Bassompierre inherited from aristocratic relatives on the continent...Love will complicate life as it will do forever, these people fall an arise seek new partners, the eternal bumpy journey in search of the unreachable happiness, contentment is it an illusion?..Yet the trek will go on and on... Charlotte Bronte's second best book, some heretics say her masterpiece but they are in the minority...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    I finished Jane Eyre and I knew what I was going to write, I finish Villette and I am quite unclear. My initial expectation was that it would repeat the earlier story: woman, abused childhood, education, passionate love, obstacle, punishments and rewards. Perhaps in large it does. The madwoman in the attic motif is repeated, this something that lodged in Bronte's imagination. Again the pathological sense of difference between the British and the French, more specifically between the Protestant and I finished Jane Eyre and I knew what I was going to write, I finish Villette and I am quite unclear. My initial expectation was that it would repeat the earlier story: woman, abused childhood, education, passionate love, obstacle, punishments and rewards. Perhaps in large it does. The madwoman in the attic motif is repeated, this something that lodged in Bronte's imagination. Again the pathological sense of difference between the British and the French, more specifically between the Protestant and the Catholic. It is hard for me to know if this simply reflected the dominant social attitudes of British shortly after Catholic emancipation or the particular world of Haworth Parsonage, in particular the Irish background of father Bronte. An interesting result of this is that Bronte, or more accuracy her narrator, Lucy Snowe, comes across as a kind of Dostoevsky - a person who going abroad was energised by their immense dislike of foreigners. Escape aboard does not represent freedom, new perspectives, a new mode of living. Instead for much of the novel it is a kind of exile. I read in the introduction how the Brontes already as children had a passionate identification with the Duke of Wellington and liked to indulge themselves in violent fantasies involving the British army and horrible foreigners. I found it easy to go on to imagine Charlotte Bronte dressed as Britannia, but wielding a cat-o-nine-tails in place of the traditional trident, whipping her way through Belgium. With that firmly in mind the eventual relationship between Snowe and Monsieur Paul seems incredible, until I recall that Dostoevsky claimed that the two point on a circle, furtherest apart are almost the closest together, the intensity of her anti-foreigner feeling super charging her feelings for Monsieur Paul. This for me is the major difficultly in reading Villette. The narrative voice is extremely powerful, but does that mean that it is wise to take it as representing the authorial point of view, and if not quite, then where do we draw the line between Lucy Snowe and Charlotte Bronte? Despite her, in many ways quite narrow background and Tory attitudes Bronte did have a passionate relationship with a Catholic foreigner, and a married one at that, plainly something of that relationship is reworked in her presentation of attraction in both Jane Eyre and Villette - the male interest is not handsome in either case but he has a presence. Reading now the book says both something about the nature of relationships between men and women and between women and society (which is perhaps the same thing but writ large) as perceived by the woman from the Yorkshire parsonage. The first point is grooming, or slightly more nicely put seduction. We see in the opening chapters the young John seduce the even younger Paulina, and then put her aside once a more interesting option comes along in the shape of his school chums, and I imagine judging from those first conversations between Paulina and Lucy that something similar happened between Lucy and John too. This seduction method of relieving boredom is not unique to the men, Ginevra acts similarly towards the men that she is interested in. The key point for me is that the emotional investment is uneven, the pursuer is calculating, the pursued whole-heartedly engaged. This all seems masochistic to me, we have characters caught up in relationships from which they can only receive pain. Since they don't escape them we can only assume that they gain something meaningful from them. This is one of the difficulties for me reading the book - Lucy's sense of having any right to pleasure or satisfaction is so repressed that the reading experience became oppressive. Naturally in the context of the book this seems like a reasonable analysis, then again she is the narrator. The stories we tell about ourselves are traps as much as explanations or attempts at Enlightenment, the stories told by a first person narrator need to be felt through with a deeply critical eye. Despite this this gloom, Snowe is less oppressed by social status, she is relatively egalitarian in her outlook - a link between her and Monsieur Paul. Despite the police regime of the school, it is the internal oppression that is effective, not apparently the structure of society. That comes across as being something like a climbing frame, albeit one too crowded to have much opportunity to move. I might take the view that the internal oppression is so severe that the plan to open her own school is hidden from herself until late in the book, if less charitable, that Bronte hit on it as a solution late on in the writing process. Either way this is a book with sudden movements after periods of oppressive continuity, like ice that suddenly cracks. Snowe in that sense doesn't look like an accidental choice of name. If it suggests purity, it can also imply fragility, delicacy and cold. Despite which she endures unsnowlike through changes of the season down to the resigned, less than happy, more than unhappy ending, that Bronte manages to give her. An ending, on reflection, that offers more than Bronte's own. In any case, I sense a reread, and that a different review will emerge after that.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    It is not possible for me to talk about this book without somehow spoiling it. I’ll hide the main spoilers, but there are some pretty awesome twists and turns in this book, so I recommend reading it with eyes that are innocent of review spoilers. I have had this weird experience lately where books or movies or TV I watch are almost always either uncannily similar to my life – like, exact words I’ve said recently or experiences I’ve had – or totally offensive and appalling to me. I think it is It is not possible for me to talk about this book without somehow spoiling it. I’ll hide the main spoilers, but there are some pretty awesome twists and turns in this book, so I recommend reading it with eyes that are innocent of review spoilers. I have had this weird experience lately where books or movies or TV I watch are almost always either uncannily similar to my life – like, exact words I’ve said recently or experiences I’ve had – or totally offensive and appalling to me. I think it is doing damage to my nervous system. I have a weak and brooding constitution, anyway, so recovery calls for those new episodes of Arrested Development to come out ASAP. No, jk, I don’t have a weak and brooding constitution, but seriously, I may take to swooning and weeping soon enough if this crazy pendulum doesn’t stop swinging so wildly. Villette was the uncannily similar variety of story. It is so eerie to read books from almost two hundred years ago and see my own thoughts and experiences. It is both comforting and totally exhausting – comforting because we have always been like this; exhausting because, well, we have always been like this. Bronte’s description of Lucy waiting by the phone for a dude to call, or, in her case, by the door for a letter to arrive, is chilling. Lucy’s conversation with Dr. John, when she points out the hypocrisy of his ability to see shallowness in men but not women, is absolutely hilarious. Lucy’s delicacy about describing her own loneliness is beautiful. Charlotte Bronte writes a really killer antiheroine, and it is always easier to identify with an antiheroine than a heroine, I think, because it is easy to see our own flaws. While this book easily stands alone as a lovely study on humanity, it also evoked comparisons to Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice for me. It was the last book Bronte published before she died. As is so common, Villette, the later book, is a less tight story than Jane Eyre – it was more meandering, and where Bronte wants to dwell, she will dwell. In some ways, though, I think Villette is more successful than Jane Eyre in distinguishing antihero from hero because Bronte is kinder to the heroes in Villette and lets me feel a little bitter at them without really despising them here. Dr. John, in contrast to St. John, does not creep me out. Paulina is a traditionally heroic heroine. This works in Villette because it provides a more clear contrast between the traditional hero’s story and Lucy’s antiheroine story. On the other hand, Jane Eyre allows flaws in everyone, whether they are golden or dark, so that has a nice subtlety. At the same time that Jane and Rochester are the more clear antiheroes, St. John is so determined to crush feelings and be unhappy that he is not so much the golden hero as Dr. John. In Villette there is a clear line between hero and antihero; in Jane Eyre the line is more blurred, though the physical descriptions signal a distinction. It might not be useful, though, to compare the two books because they are both wonderful, and I don't know that I prefer the clear distinction or the blurring. In some ways, I think this story is a Bronte Pride and Prejudice. All of the couples are parallels: (view spoiler)[Paulina and Dr. John are Jane and Bingley; Lucy and M. Paul are Lizzy and Darcy; and, of course, Ginevra and de Hamal are Lydia and Wickham (hide spoiler)] . In many ways that comparison fails because the interaction of the characters in P&P forms a cohesive plot, and Villette is not really about any particular plot, I think, but it was interesting to see similar couples described through more brutal eyes. Both Charlotte and Emily Bronte, also, always seem more exotic than Austen because the aesthetics of their heroes are described so much more like an emo band. While Austen captures that subtle loneliness of unreliable family, the Brontes go straight for explicit isolation in a cruel world. I doubt I could love either Austen or the Brontes so much without the other. And it was beautiful to read about the couples from Pride and Prejudice with the severity and stifled animal cry of Charlotte Bronte. I see Virginia Woolf’s point that sometimes Bronte’s failures as an editor interfere with the story in a way that you don’t see in Austen, but it is still beautiful. Probably my favorite thing about this book is Lucy’s shiftiness as a narrator. This girl is going to tell you what she wants you to know and she is going to leave out whatever the fuck she wants. It was totally hilarious that she (view spoiler)[didn’t even tell me that she knew the whole time that Dr. John was Graham Bretton (hide spoiler)] . That little minx! (As they say.) And then the way she ends the story is just (view spoiler)[heartbreaking – you can’t even handle the cruelty of her life, so she won’t force you to listen to it (hide spoiler)] . I was not in love with any of the heroes of this story, and I kind of liked that, too. It was more like a soul-mate friend, of whom I am completely in awe, telling me about the people she loved, and how she understood them and their faults, than a con game of trying to get me to fall in love myself. It is interesting because usually we are meant to fall in love with the romantic lead (and I’mma be honest, I totally swoon for Rochester), but I do not almost ever swoon for my irl friends’ love stories. In this way, I felt that Lucy was completely her own person, and even though I identified with her in this sometimes-creepy way, she was not a stand-in for me in the love story. I thought (view spoiler)[both Dr. John and M. Paul were kind of douchebags (hide spoiler)] , but that was fine because Lucy was smart about all of them. Honestly, I didn’t notice (view spoiler)[M. Paul (hide spoiler)] for a long time, and I am usually really good at picking up on romantic leads, so when I re-read I will have to pay better attention to what he does in the early part of the novel. I really loved this book. As I got to the end, I panicked a little because I remembered that I had always partly been reluctant to read it because I will use up the possibility for a new Bronte story soon, and what a sad, bleak time that will be. I still have a couple left, though, so I will hoard those for later. I wish Bronte would email me new stories from her austere, Protestant heaven.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I can do no better to begin with than to quote George Eliot, who upon reading Villette called it "a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre". Villette is darker and more realistic than Jane Eyre, and more autobiographical (and perhaps thus even more powerful). Drawing on Charlotte Brontë's experiences in Brussels, Villette tells the story of Lucy Snowe, who leaves England in flight from a shadowy, unhappy past; she comes to "Villette" (i.e., Brussels) and becomes an English teacher at Madame I can do no better to begin with than to quote George Eliot, who upon reading Villette called it "a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre". Villette is darker and more realistic than Jane Eyre, and more autobiographical (and perhaps thus even more powerful). Drawing on Charlotte Brontë's experiences in Brussels, Villette tells the story of Lucy Snowe, who leaves England in flight from a shadowy, unhappy past; she comes to "Villette" (i.e., Brussels) and becomes an English teacher at Madame Beck's school, where she meets the mercurial, autocratic Monsieur Paul (based on Constantin Heger, the married schoolmaster with whom Charlotte fell in love during her time in Brussels). Lucy is a complex character: repressed, yet deeply emotional, cold on the outside (like her name), but fiery within. Her narration is reticent; unlike Jane Eyre, she holds back, never telling the reader everything, rarely allowing herself to show her feelings. A key passage occurs relatively early on the book, soon after Lucy has begun work at the school: "Oh, my childhood! I had feelings: passive as I lived, little as I spoke, cold as I looked, when I thought of past days, I could feel. About the present, it was better to be stoical; about the future -- such a future as mine -- to be dead. And in catalepsy and a dead trance, I studiously held the quick of my nature." I do admit that Villette is not as easy to read as Jane Eyre. Lucy's reticence as a narrator forces the reader to reach out further to engage with her; yet her depth of feeling and her humor are engaging. I defy anyone (all right, anyone who likes Victorian fiction) to read fifty pages of Villette and be able to put it down; every time I read it, I feel as though I could pick it right back up after finishing, start it over, and be just as enthralled as though it had been years since I'd read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure. Happiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven. She is a divine dew which the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and golden fruitage of Paradise. I love when this paradoxical life brings me a book laced with "composite and No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure. Happiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven. She is a divine dew which the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and golden fruitage of Paradise. I love when this paradoxical life brings me a book laced with "composite and contracted" meaning, one of philosophical ponder and pathos; one wherein solitude grasps for Hope in order to avoid Despair and longing is elucidated and layered. Dreamlike and peculiar at times, a revelation of inner thought, the reflective narrative never ceases to make its reader consider life and its oddities, life and its happiness and pain. At a time in my life when I'm at a crossroads with two interesting professional decisions that were forced upon me by this life, I am humbled that Villette occupied my still moments. This is the story of what happens when a woman finds herself in the midst of a strange community, with aloof, pretentious, and judgmental people; when she must ground herself in an academic environment that overflows with pretenses and mockery. This novel's trajectory is what happens when love is unrequited, for it demands social status from the one it inhabits. These three meandering volumes make lucid the loneliness that blooms within, one that stems from loss of family and identity. I smiled when I read Bronte's explanation for Lucy Snowe because while I loved Polly, I had a deep admiration for Lucy's steadfastness and professional journey, and I also admired Charlotte Brontë who made no apologies for her character. Here is how Brontë describes Lucy in a letter: You say that she may be thought morbid and weak, unless the history of her life be more fully given. I consider that she is both morbid and weak at times; her character sets up no pretensions to unmixed strength, and anybody living her life would necessarily become morbid. And in a letter to her publisher Brontë wrote: "I greatly apprehend, however, that the weakest character in the book is the one I aimed at making the most beautiful..." I never really did understand, and in fact detested, Paul Emmanuel's patronizing ways in the first part of the novel. It was interesting to learn that he stands in for Constantin Heger, the husband of the school director that Brontë worked for. Graham, however, seems like a stud - caring, kind, generous, intelligent - and it is easy to see how Lucy would have fallen in love with him. However, to say much about plot would 'spoil' the story and mislead the reader, for this narrative is an extension of memory, a sequence of consciousness that occurs through contemplation and reflection, which makes the plot both surprising and revealing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)

    Reader, I heart Ms. Bronte! Reading Villette was like reading a huge epic that I was so emmersed in that I walked in Lucy Snowe's shoes, I felt what she felt. How many authors can do that to you? Lucy Snowe is difficult to get to know at first. In fact, she is difficult to like. This is deliberate; she tells you about other people, what they think, what they feel, but precious little about herself, of whom she appears fiercely private. Only as the story unfolds does she start to let you in - I Reader, I heart Ms. Bronte! Reading Villette was like reading a huge epic that I was so emmersed in that I walked in Lucy Snowe's shoes, I felt what she felt. How many authors can do that to you? Lucy Snowe is difficult to get to know at first. In fact, she is difficult to like. This is deliberate; she tells you about other people, what they think, what they feel, but precious little about herself, of whom she appears fiercely private. Only as the story unfolds does she start to let you in - I remember being surprised when she showed such tender, gentle thoughts and actions towards the sick daughter of her employer; that, I believe, was the first glimpse of emotion from Lucy and it really endeared me to her. Lucy Snowe's name was not an accident - Bronte toyed with Lucy Frost for a while before settling on Snowe. She also allows us to see her as others do: "Crabbed and crusty" said Ginevra, a pupil at the school, and "unfeeling thing that I was" written to her in a letter. The point is, she isn't unfeeling at all. She is lonely and trying to make her way in an unfamiliar world. Lucy's past is only hinted at but it appears to have been an unhappy one. Brontes prose is gorgeous, Villette is such a richly embroidered account of a young woman trying to make a life for herself in a foreign country and fighting for independence and friendship. This book isn't a romance in the same way that Jane Eyre is. I wasn't sure for a long time who the leading man would be (in fact he doesn't even appear until the second half of the book). And it isn't love at first sight, we watch it grow. I absolutely adored this book and it is now a firm favourtie of mine. I finished it last night and I finally closed the book in a daze. I don't want to give anything away, but I was not expecting what happended at the end at all. That came completely out of the blue for me. Go ahead, indluge and enjoy!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    We denizens of 'The Book of Disquiet' salute you. We of the small loves and small livings, the tiny joys and tiny dreams, bid you welcome. Our home is well-adjusted and self-assured, for if we profess ourselves any sort of connoisseur, it lies within those realms. Our work keeps us fed, clothed, ticking along at a methodical pace that matches the step of our action. Our doings are wrested from the very root of us, and we cannot remember a time when our will was a creature without chain or muzzle. We denizens of 'The Book of Disquiet' salute you. We of the small loves and small livings, the tiny joys and tiny dreams, bid you welcome. Our home is well-adjusted and self-assured, for if we profess ourselves any sort of connoisseur, it lies within those realms. Our work keeps us fed, clothed, ticking along at a methodical pace that matches the step of our action. Our doings are wrested from the very root of us, and we cannot remember a time when our will was a creature without chain or muzzle. We of the thoughtful posing and quiet undertaking, the nondescript manner and stoic expression, pass you by. Our persona is mature and respectable, for if we claim ourselves any manner of actor, in those appearances we reign supreme. Our countenance keeps us from harm, trouble, the majority of unwelcome intrusions and unexpected disturbances. Our face once feared the cruel judgment of every eye, and we will never know how much we have lost in maintaining its proud coldness. We of the reticent life and withdrawn days, the slow solitude and meandering existence, pray you keep at a distance. Our existence is of much self and little other, for if we must cluster our many sensibilities under a single roof, we will choose a room of our own. Our self-appraisals keep us safe, secure, a well measured freedom in the functions of a perfectly plotted daily life. Our souls cry, and cry, and cry, for we have not yet found the permanent satisfaction that such an existence promises. We of the careful cravings and hesitant urges, the hard won realizations and fierce practices, present to you on rare occasions. Our passions are few and foremost, for if we believe ourselves the bearer of any kind of talent, we cling to it as a ballast of temporal assurance. Our works keep us a measure of the past, future, a present that without such doings would slip into the void of useless persistence. Our praxis heeds neither standard nor accreditation, and thus we are admired, and thus we are condemned. We of the observant eye and sardonic grin, the quickening wit and sober analysis, say to you, beware! Our modus operandi is an invisible seething, for if we name our most finely tuned instinct, it is the instantaneous measure of irony of any and all. Our entertainment keeps us amused in parts, and fully familiarized with the discordant pomposity of reality in others. Ignorance is bliss, a garden from which we were banished long ago, forevermore to discontentedly mock and claw ourselves bloody on our own eternal hypocrisies. We of the accumulated being and carved out philosophy, the chaotic incorporations and weathered discombobulations, forbid you the ease of category. Our mind is our own and ours alone, for if we hold ourselves to any creed, we demand it change with our every breath and drop of blood. Our sustenance keep us alive, and woe to any who choose only between spitting us out and swallowing us whole. It is lonely, here, but nowhere else will let us be. We of the experienced heart and cautious brain, the creeping desire and subtle attractions, set you at a distance. Our love knows itself very well, for if there is one thing it characterizes itself by, it is the painfully slow and all encompassing spread of loyalty incarnate. Our self very rarely finds another it can devote itself to, and knows itself too tightly reined to come to any foolish end. We bury our seeds too deeply, and their strangling growths are doomed to die without a trace of reciprocating sun. And so, we denizens of 'Villette' bid you adieu. We are a small, strange, and sad sort, and our weirdly warped self-censures are likely to accrue as life goes on. Much more likely to build up into an age old oubliette within which we quietly fade to our own ends, than to erode. However, if you are patient, and you do care, we may come out again. We take long in developing affection, and even longer in feeling confident to bestow such affections unlooked for, but if you seek us out and encourage from us the same, who knows. We will still be mindful of all the rest, but perhaps, yes. We will come out to play.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I really started to feel affection for Villette the first time Lucy Snowe tells the reader she knew something pivotal to the plot about six chapters ago but didn’t bother telling us. This trickery changed the way I was reading. Lucy Snowe was sneering at me and I hadn’t even noticed. I needed to pay attention! All those dark, brooding, anxious passages, the anguish, the loneliness…she only told us what she wanted us to know. A bitter, sly, dark, strong character. The ending sealed the deal for I really started to feel affection for Villette the first time Lucy Snowe tells the reader she knew something pivotal to the plot about six chapters ago but didn’t bother telling us. This trickery changed the way I was reading. Lucy Snowe was sneering at me and I hadn’t even noticed. I needed to pay attention! All those dark, brooding, anxious passages, the anguish, the loneliness…she only told us what she wanted us to know. A bitter, sly, dark, strong character. The ending sealed the deal for me. It’s brilliant.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    I liked this novel, I think partly because I pictured Charlotte as the character of Lucy Snowe. I felt like it was almost semi-autobiographical in nature. But it's still not in the same league with Jane Eyre, which will forever be considered Bronte's masterpiece. I read where George Eliot and Virginia Woolf believe Villette was her best novel. But in my opinion Jane Eyre is the gold standard of classic English literature. But still, I give Villette 4 stars, certainly worth reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    This was a really beautiful journey which often left me puzzled, but in the end I absolutely loved it. Lucy, our main character, is determined to become independent and make something of her life, and so she goes from England to France, more specifically to the village of Villette. "Jane Eyre" is amongst my favourite books, so I was very interested to dive further into Charlotte Brontë's authorship. I did see some similarities between the two works; Charlotte Brontë likes to surprise her readers This was a really beautiful journey which often left me puzzled, but in the end I absolutely loved it. Lucy, our main character, is determined to become independent and make something of her life, and so she goes from England to France, more specifically to the village of Villette. "Jane Eyre" is amongst my favourite books, so I was very interested to dive further into Charlotte Brontë's authorship. I did see some similarities between the two works; Charlotte Brontë likes to surprise her readers and to bring her protagonists on quite a journey. When you finish her books, you feel like you've been through so much, even though all you've been doing is to sit in your couch and read. I must admit that this book has its weak spots and dragging descriptions (which were nonetheless beautiful and fascinating!), but my overall impression of this book is a very positive one, and the ending left me with a smile on my face and a satisfied heart :)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Villette lacks the fire and passion of Jane Eyre. Since we already know this is a fictionalized version of Charlotte Bronte's time in Brussels where she had some sort of relationship with the professor she worked for, this may be the reason for the tameness. There are many similarities in the characters of Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe in that they are orphans, they are loners, they yearn for love and, for much of the book, they love from afar with no hope of reciprocation. Villette is a colder Villette lacks the fire and passion of Jane Eyre. Since we already know this is a fictionalized version of Charlotte Bronte's time in Brussels where she had some sort of relationship with the professor she worked for, this may be the reason for the tameness. There are many similarities in the characters of Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe in that they are orphans, they are loners, they yearn for love and, for much of the book, they love from afar with no hope of reciprocation. Villette is a colder book because I believe Charlotte Bronte was trying to put her real life love behind her by writing it out. I think it was done out of sadness, depression and loneliness and she built a wall between herself, her characters and her readers. There is such a thread of "this doesn't really matter" running through it that it is hard to become close to the characters or care very much about what happens to them. If they don't care, why should we? Villette also lacks the pace of Jane Eyre and plods through dreary days with long, boring musings and moralizing. I got weary of the sermons. It was as if Bronte wrote anything that came into her mind, avoiding the crux of the situation. When in Brussels, she fell in love with a married man, had no hope of ever having a life with him and returned home to Yorkshire alone and miserable. Then she tried to write a book with a "so what" attitude and that didn't work for me. I just checked the reviews posted before mine, and feel like a salmon swimming upstream. Oh, well.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I finished this last night and I'm STILL ANGRY. WHAT THE HELL, CHARLOTTE? I mean, seriously. I would also like to sit down with the person who wrote the introduction and talked about how Villette is so much better than Jane Eyre. I would like to speak to this person about their drug habit, and how it's affecting their work performance. Because . . . WHAT . . . did I just read? And WHY have so many of my friends given this book 5 stars? Now, as some of you may know, I love Jane Eyre. I mean, I LOVE I finished this last night and I'm STILL ANGRY. WHAT THE HELL, CHARLOTTE? I mean, seriously. I would also like to sit down with the person who wrote the introduction and talked about how Villette is so much better than Jane Eyre. I would like to speak to this person about their drug habit, and how it's affecting their work performance. Because . . . WHAT . . . did I just read? And WHY have so many of my friends given this book 5 stars? Now, as some of you may know, I love Jane Eyre. I mean, I LOVE JANE EYRE. It is without a doubt in my top ten books of all time. And I love it not because of the romance, but because I love Jane. Jane is not afraid to speak her mind. Jane is not afraid to seek out love. Jane is not afraid to say, I respect myself too damn much to be your mistress, even though you are a sexy beast and I want you. Jane is an artist. Jane is a loyal friend. Jane is amazeballs. Villette is about Lucy Snowe. Lucy Snowe doesn't talk a lot. Years worth of stuff happens to her and she goes, Meh, well, that was a thing. Lucy is easily irritated by people, and enjoys being alone (which I did appreciate), and Lucy is much put upon by people who sort of use her and abuse her, take advantage of her retiring nature, send her letters and buy her gowns when they remember her, drop her when they are busy with other people. Lucy likes walking around in gardens, and she's fine. Okay, sure. I was okay with all of this. It wasn't better than Jane Eyre, but it was okay. I was okay with it right up until she starts tearing out her hair and flinging herself around sobbing because a guy who has been a COMPLETE ASSHOLE to her for the last 400 pages is going away. A guy who constantly harps on her clothes, and tells her that she should wear dull colors and no jewelry because she isn't meant for such things. A guy who insults her intelligence, treats her like a child or a pet, spies on her, steals from her, mocks her in public. A guy who rages at her and calls her a slut for exchanging letters with a male friend. No. Just no. This man is the most horrible of all the horrible people who surround Lucy, and I am extremely upset that she didn't tell him not to let the door hit him on his (badly dressed, cigar-smelling) ass as he left. GRRR.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Newton

    I'm not sure how to write a review for this book--I don't think I'm even qualified to. Yes, I read it, but not as well as it deserved. I went into it lightly, assuming that it was a weaker, watered-down, inferior version of Jane Eyre. By the end, I realized that this book is a force unto itself. The force of this book is subtle, though; it doesn't smack you between the eyes, but rather creeps up on you stealthily, winding almost invisible tentacles around your consciousness, catching you up into I'm not sure how to write a review for this book--I don't think I'm even qualified to. Yes, I read it, but not as well as it deserved. I went into it lightly, assuming that it was a weaker, watered-down, inferior version of Jane Eyre. By the end, I realized that this book is a force unto itself. The force of this book is subtle, though; it doesn't smack you between the eyes, but rather creeps up on you stealthily, winding almost invisible tentacles around your consciousness, catching you up into the story before you know you've been caught. Like its protagonist, Lucy Snowe, it lurks quietly, just watching; also like Lucy, the story has a hidden power. The story is the semi-autobiographical tale of Charlotte Bronte's unrequited love for her professor. The main character, Lucy Snowe, is an English orphan who flees England for the hope of adventure and a better life. She ends up in Villette, a fictional town that represents Brussels, where she takes a position in a girls' school as a teacher. She suffers an unrequited passion for one man, but ends by falling in love with another, who is ultimately a much better match for her. Lucy is telling the story, but we are still kept in the dark quite a bit as she proves to be an unreliable narrator. Her refusal to acknowledge certain truths about herself, even to herself, helps to keep her audience confused and mystified by events. All in all, I think this is a book that has hidden depths, and I feel that my own assumptions caused me to miss some of these layers of meaning. I need a re-read to really appreciate all that is there. When will that be? I have no idea, but I won't be able to do the book justice until then.

  21. 5 out of 5

    7jane

    (edited this with some expanding thoughts:) The story of a woman half-forced to indenpendence, having to find her way in a foreign, largely Catholic country; to find a satisfying job and perhaps love. It's not a straight, clear road that she might've hoped for, but something that makes her grow (view spoiler)[into mature, independent stability that is not without implied (or clear, if you view it so) tragedy (hide spoiler)] . One has to remember while reading this that certain prejudices of (edited this with some expanding thoughts:) The story of a woman half-forced to indenpendence, having to find her way in a foreign, largely Catholic country; to find a satisfying job and perhaps love. It's not a straight, clear road that she might've hoped for, but something that makes her grow (view spoiler)[into mature, independent stability that is not without implied (or clear, if you view it so) tragedy (hide spoiler)] . One has to remember while reading this that certain prejudices of Catholic religion from a British protestant point of view appear in the text, but it's not so heavy that I couldn't finish it, and it's somewhat in the background. This book shows also yet again what a great mind (and later what a great loss we had) in Charlotte Bronte. Reading this I found myself rooting for her survival, her independence and stability of mind (there's one rather hallucinatory scene in one chapter). I also found the writing tight (no feel of 'needs to be shorter') yet with great moods. I enjoyed this book all the way, and will read it again. Recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The genius of Charlotte Bronte is that she dissolves that thin line between reader and character. You dear reader feel everything as Lucy feels it. It is so painful to not know why M. Paul has offered no word of explanation for his absence. A brief note, saying 'Trust me' and then the fete night where Lucy's sensibilities are pushed beyond endurance and then the resolution. And the final page - well - we are supposed to have learnt as Lucy has learnt, about Trust and Faith and Love. If you The genius of Charlotte Bronte is that she dissolves that thin line between reader and character. You dear reader feel everything as Lucy feels it. It is so painful to not know why M. Paul has offered no word of explanation for his absence. A brief note, saying 'Trust me' and then the fete night where Lucy's sensibilities are pushed beyond endurance and then the resolution. And the final page - well - we are supposed to have learnt as Lucy has learnt, about Trust and Faith and Love. If you believe in love then M. Paul will be returned safely. What more to say. Actually I decided there is quite a lot more to say - reading Villette, and then attempting to respond to the whole, required me to consider - what exactly is the nature of a review? I think the basic response - is that I want everyone else to read and enjoy the book as much as I did, and then to contact me and tell me all the pieces they loved, hated, wanted to change, couldn't improve upon, how it related to them etc. etc. etc. If my followers experience different emotions, a different rationale then no problem - the point is to read and appreciate her, and also I think because she's one of the Very Best. The experience of reading Villette will ultimately give you a more referenced and perceptive vision from which to read other novels - be it from the 19th, 20th or 21st century, and certainly you can go back in time to - when the Novel begins - mid 18th century? Tristram Shandy - by Laurence Sterne. Any suggestions folks? So to Villette - Bronte is an intellectual writer - and she writes in the style of her contemporaries which require that your abilities as writer be constantly reaffirmed. To this end, the text is full of references - to the Bible, Old and New, Greek philosophers, contemporary, and notable greats, English History - and surprisingly to Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles published in 1891. If you are not familiar with these noteworthy tomes and other writers - then yes it can be off putting - but we have the esteemed Tony Tanner, (a Fellow of King's College Cambridge, and Reader) who provides the End Notes and an Introduction. Can anyone explain the Tess reference, considering Hardy didn't create her until - 38 years after Villette? Nevermind - the esteemed Tanner also translates the heavy use of conversational French - although I generally preferred my own, and only used his when I struggled with vocab. All of this can be a little intimidating - Do not be put off. Ms Bronte applied mid-19th century writerly style, mixed with her own and being a woman, she needed to establish her credentials not to mention maintain her assumed status as Currer Bell. If you're a Bible reader then you will love Bronte's references to the Holy Works - try this: Chapter 19: Note 8. (p.280) Nebuchadnezzar's hottest furnace: the miraculous deliverance of three Israelites from one of these furnaces, whither they had been despatched by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (for refusing to worship a golden image), converted the king forwith to Judaism. See Daniel, iii. The note refers to words spoken by M. Paul to Lucy - a comment on her integrity of character. Or try this: Chapter 25: Note 4. (p.370) too solid flesh: the phrase is from the first line of Hamlet's first soliloquy: O! that this too solid flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into a dew; (I, ii 129-30) This is Paulina referring to her dear Papa - M. Home de Bassompierre as being immutable. He is an intractable character unwilling to change his mind - a good Scotsman in my opinion - one of the few characters - who quickly and easily sums up Lucy's position. Which is what he does when Paulina asks Lucy what she does - Lucy replies: 'I am a teacher,'... Our narrator provides a careful lead in, culminating in the Count's reply: He did not know much about Lucy Snowe: what he knew, he did not very accurately comprehend: indeed his misconceptions of my character often made me smile; but he saw my walk in life lay rather on the shady side of the hill; he gave me credit for doing my endeavour to keep the course honestly straight; he would have helped me if he could: having no opportunity of helping he still wished me well. When he did look at me, his eye was kind; when he did speak, his voice was benevolent. 'Yours,' said he, 'is an arduous calling. I wish you strength and health to win in it - success.' His fair little daughter did not take the information quite so composedly: she fixed on me a pair of eyes wide with wonder - almost with dismay. 'Are you a teacher?' cried she. Then having paused on the unpalatable idea,... 'And why do you go on with it?' Her father looked at, and I feared, was going to check her; but he only said, 'Proceed Polly ... Well Miss Snowe, why do you go on with it?' 'Chiefly, I fear, for the sake of the money I get.' Actually in this tiny section - there is the whole plot - Lucy's struggle to establish herself as a person equal to those around her - and when I use the word equal - Bronte and I share terms - we mean equal in character, intellect, ability, morality. But I would also like to point out - how simple is her style when - it comes to the crunch. There are plenty of examples of what I would call highfalutin language - but we'll skip those. Let's focus on the plot. Here is the point at which she must return to the Rue Fossette to Madam Beck's Pensionnat and her work as a teacher. Dr John/Graham has promised to write to her and to maintain his family's relationship with her. 'And will Graham really write?' I questioned, as I sank tired on the edge of the bed. Reason, coming stealthily up to me through the twilight of that long, dim chamber, whispered sedately, - 'He may write once. So kind is his nature, it may stimulate him for once to make the effort. Lucy has allowed herself to hope that there will be a continued interest in herself and her circumstances from Dr John, and indeed his mother Mrs Bretton, who is in fact Lucy's Godmother, and her only semblance of family. The conversation between Lucy and Reason continues for several pages, she wants to write to Dr John, allow him to see the real her, but Reason answers: At your peril you cherish that idea, or suffer its influence to animate any writing of yours!' 'But if I feel, may I never express?' 'Never! declared Reason. At the end of this bitter argument - with herself, Lucy is found in the classe, huddled by the stove trying to imbibe some warmth into her frozen mind and body - and interesting it is M. Paul who finds her thus: 'Mademoiselle, vous etes triste.' 'Monsieur, j'en ai bien le droit.' 'Vous etes malade de coeur et d'humeur,' he pursued. 'You are at once mourneful and mutinous. I see on your cheek two tears which I know are hot as two sparks, and salt as two crystals of the sea. While I speak you eye me strangely. Shall I tell you of what I am reminded while watching you?' 'Monsieur, I shall be called away to prayers shortly; my time for conversation is very scant and brief at this hour - excuse -' 'I excuse everything,' he interrrupted; 'my mood is so meek, neither rebuff nor, perhaps, insult could ruffle it. You remind me, then, of a young she wild creature, new caught, untamed, viewing with a mixture of fire and fear the first entrance of the breaker-in.' And he means 'breaker-in' to her heart not something else, automatically considered by modern readers. Our narrator often describes M. Paul as gnome like - but here the sense of his ability to discern exactly what she is feeling borders on the other-wordly - a true elf, gnome, magi - he is not privy to Lucy's past or recent excursion to La Terrasse the comfortable home of Graham and Mrs Bretton, and yet he reads Lucy absolutely. Which woman - out there has not yearned for a man -or mortal to address her so? To observe with the naked eye and yet see beyond what is on the surface? This is extraordinarily racy for present times - more so for 1853 - and yet M. Paul is no demon lover or celibate priest or any other incarnation he could be - but simply a man, aware of Lucy struggling to retain all her desires beneath a smooth facade. All the normal desires of a young woman, to have friendship, love, security, status, comforts - a pleasant life, with excitements as well as work and struggles. As M. Paul identifies after Lucy's performance in the school play "vous etes une petite ambitiouse". Yes - she is clever. She has desires and aims, but are these Needs any different from any woman young or old in any time period? Lucy's particular historical time setting means - she cannot advance in society through work or employment. In the early 19th century, her only way forward is to marry. This is the essential difference therefore, between then and now - her options are extremely narrow, but she battles on. Severely tried, she makes her way but will not use the wiles of certain ones - such as Ginevra Fanshaw. Nor does she have the fine breeding and background of Paulina - or her looks. Lucy's only advantages are what lie internally - her morals and intellect, her character - and it is on these that Charlotte Bronte builds her novel. Lucy chooses to believe, no matter how arduous the journey that - through her own strength and determination she will find a measure of happiness and success - and indeed she does.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elham

    This book is dark, dark; even darker than any existentialist novel I have ever read, and how true and realistic. It seems that this novel is a kind of semi-autobiography. Like Jane Eyre, this time also the book starts with the stories of a girl, Lucy Snow, living for a while with her godmother. But it was only for a short while. Then she grows up (we don't know anything about the years in between from her 14-23 – we just know that she had a difficult life that she had to work and nurse an old This book is dark, dark; even darker than any existentialist novel I have ever read, and how true and realistic. It seems that this novel is a kind of semi-autobiography. Like Jane Eyre, this time also the book starts with the stories of a girl, Lucy Snow, living for a while with her godmother. But it was only for a short while. Then she grows up (we don't know anything about the years in between from her 14-23 – we just know that she had a difficult life that she had to work and nurse an old woman) she travels to another city, Villette, alone, where they speak French. She becomes an English teacher. But it was not as easy as those summary lines. She is alone, no family, no money. She has to live on her own feet; she must work not for humanity and helping other people, not morality…to have a roof above her head. What makes this book dark?? Loneliness, solitude, broken heart and the price of freedom. The freedom of expressing yourself, the freedom of being your own self, not just putting a mask on your face, a mask of a "beautiful woman" , pretend to be a lover and always remain a dependent creature. Independence above all...Independence is necessary, but this is suffering. How can you be "a woman of intellect" and still be loved?? And perhaps if you had a wealthy father you could have the chance of seducing men who besides beauty (a most essential factor) they would die for your money too. You can't breathe in a place where you only have to work, where they steal love from you, it is a prison…you need a change, you are strong. This book is amazing. Charlotte Brontë is amazing and very courageous to write such book in her time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    10/26/16 "Forget the modern debate over 'likeable' female characters - Lucy is prickly, repressed, untrustworthy, unattractive, judgmental, in constant denial of her own feelings, desperate for affection, violently anti-Catholic - in short an IMPOSSIBLE female character. There are even times when not only Lucy but Bronte herself hides significant information about the other characters from the readers, often casually mentioning having withheld it long after the fact. She is difficult to 10/26/16 "Forget the modern debate over 'likeable' female characters - Lucy is prickly, repressed, untrustworthy, unattractive, judgmental, in constant denial of her own feelings, desperate for affection, violently anti-Catholic - in short an IMPOSSIBLE female character. There are even times when not only Lucy but Bronte herself hides significant information about the other characters from the readers, often casually mentioning having withheld it long after the fact. She is difficult to sympathize with, because she does not seek to be understood, not by us nor by anyone else. She seeks always to appear smaller, not because she enjoys being ignored, because she has found being human-sized altogether too painful to endure. She has no hope of power of pleasing, but this does not mean she has stopped wishing that she had it." -from Mallory Ortberg's introduction I had a difficult time reading Villette. The first few chapters and the protagonist, Lucy Snowe, never really captured and held my attention. I ended up finishing it by listening to the audiobook and reading along. But then the ending blindsided me, and the introduction, which I read afterwards, made me cry. I recall my great love for Jane Eyre happened after I reread it. And I feel my love for Villette can only grow. Lucy and Jane are very much alike, but Lucy is far more real than Jane. Lucy is solely concerned with survival and often succumbs to despair. She only rarely allows herself to daydream about the thing Jane craves: love. Lucy never asks for love; she has only known grief and does not want to go through another unnecessary bout caused by the loss of it. I very much see parts of myself in Lucy and feel very kindred to her, especially since my days far more closely resemble Lucy's than they will ever Jane's, with all their excitement and promises. Lucy's story doesn't reward you for listening to it, but there are rewards to be found in listening to Lucy Snowe. 8/25/17 For the most part, this rereading experience was not very enjoyable. I think, on the whole, I will always find the first part of Villette a slog to overcome. There is a lot of the French language and many new, unlikable characters to meet and hear about, and many unsettling settings to discover. During the first part, too, we barely get a chance to understand Lucy, who she is, how she functions. She makes an effort to hide herself from the reader. During the rereading, I saw through a few things that Lucy intended to hide from the reader, and I looked on a couple male characters differently - oppositely - than I did when reading it for the first time. I enjoyed knowing I knew Lucy better than she perhaps wanted me to. Overall, however, Villette is not a happy book. Lucy is not a happy person and her life is not easy or full of pleasurable things. She's an outsider most of the time and is rarely, truly a part of someone else's life. This is a book about the pains of solitude, unrequited love and unfulfilled love. It is full of unwelcoming characters and places. It is a story that desperately tries to keep you at arm's length. But after all that, Lucy feels like a friend. One day this will get a true 5 stars from me - when I find enjoyment in the first part of the novel. Until then I will continue to reread Villette and never forget Lucy Snowe. 7/14/19 this was a more enjoyable reading experience, though I’ve dropped my rating to three stars. This novel continues to have too many unlikeable characters for me to love and a plot that feels pantsed more than planned. I always enjoy CB’s writing, though this book has some of her most complicated language and extended metaphors that can be confusing. I enjoyed seeing the small details in the text and making connections I hadn’t before. But this is probably my least favorite of her works, though I still find merit in it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    I cry in anguish, "Oh Villette, Villette, Villette!" It was a feeling that came upon me as I read this novel; the palpable feeling of— The cold grey storms of the fall and winter, the relentless building winds, the rain pounding against the window—those dark and dreary days of loneliness—all of the losses have brought you a smothering and almost overwhelming mantle of grief. You see, and write of, the Love around you, but feel the throbbing ache, day after day, night after night, of never I cry in anguish, "Oh Villette, Villette, Villette!" It was a feeling that came upon me as I read this novel; the palpable feeling of— The cold grey storms of the fall and winter, the relentless building winds, the rain pounding against the window—those dark and dreary days of loneliness—all of the losses have brought you a smothering and almost overwhelming mantle of grief. You see, and write of, the Love around you, but feel the throbbing ache, day after day, night after night, of never receiving Love in return. I lost count of the tears that fell as I read your account, Miss Lucy Snowe; or, should I call you, Miss Charlotte? This novel, this Villette, like an arrow fletched fair, flew true, oh so true, and pierced your beating heart; and from that mortal wound poured the secrets of your soul, your inner-most being; laid bare for all to see. The incalculable loss of your older sisters, then Branwell, your dearest Emily, and finally quiet little Anne. This towering testament to loneliness, to sorrow, swept me, your Reader, relentlessly through the unimagined torrent of your human emotions—your grief, your fears, your reserved passion, your quiet grace, steadfast loyalty, and your resolute strength and faith. I felt guilty as I read, Little Woman, looking over my shoulder at every pause; afraid that you should find me picking the lock of your secret diary; spellbound as I turned the pages, one after the other, reading your most intimate, personal, and painful thoughts and the passionate feelings that poured forth onto the page. Intensely captivated by the dialog between your Passion and your Reason, the conversations between your Imagination and your Matter; but I read on. Until it became too much; I averted my eyes, and I wept. As I sit here, writing these words, I am absolutely overwhelmed. I don’t know that I have ever read a book that has moved me quite like Charlotte Bronte’s final novel, Villette. A timeless and moving experience from its first words, to its final “Farewell.” I am without words, Little Woman. I know this though, Miss Lucy Snowe, Miss Charlotte Bronte, I shall Love you always. In tribute to the commitment you made to all who have read, or will read, this personal ‘Testament’ of yours over the ages, may your own words prove prophetic— “Proof of a life to come must be given. In fire and in blood do we trace the record throughout nature. In fire and in blood does it cross our own experience. Sufferer, faint not through terror of this burning evidence. Tired wayfarer, gird up thy loins, look upward, march onward. Pilgrims and brother mourners, join in friendly company. Dark through the wilderness of this world stretches the way for most of us; equal and steady be our tread; be our cross our banner. For staff we have His promise, whose ‘word is tried, whose way is perfect:’ for present hope His providence, ‘who gives the shield of salvation, whose gentleness makes great;’ for final home His bosom, who ‘dwells in the height of Heaven;’ for crowning prize a glory, exceeding and eternal.” Farewell, Little Woman, fare thee well.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Simona Bartolotta

    So, so different from my Jane Eyre. But different is good too.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    My third and final Charlotte Bronte from the 1001 list, although Jane Eyre, which I read as a teenager is probably due for a re-read especially as although I enjoyed it I didn't really 'really' like it and I've been thinking that I should probably give it another chance as it were. I was reconsidering this after having read Shirley not so long ago, as I thought that novel pretty mediocre really, but Villette has raised Charlotte in my estimation even though it might be as good as it is because My third and final Charlotte Bronte from the 1001 list, although Jane Eyre, which I read as a teenager is probably due for a re-read especially as although I enjoyed it I didn't really 'really' like it and I've been thinking that I should probably give it another chance as it were. I was reconsidering this after having read Shirley not so long ago, as I thought that novel pretty mediocre really, but Villette has raised Charlotte in my estimation even though it might be as good as it is because it has been the culmination of a life of writing and has a great deal of personal emotion woven into the text. So, Villette. Rather unusual all things considered. Lucy Snow, an orphan without friends or relations, travels to France to seek some sort of post to enable her to earn enough to live on. Lucy is an unusual woman, there is a lot to admire in her, her desire to be independent and her quiet morality, but she is also cold and frequently harshly judgemental of those around her. I actually find a great resemblance between Lucy Snow and Fanny Price in Mansfield Park (a comparison which Charlotte might find odious as she didn't much care for Jane Austen's books). Lucy carries a great deal of pain and unhappiness inside of her but as readers we are mostly led to guess at her history for ourselves based on inference as Lucy herself remains nearly universally private about her past. (And also her present. Lucy in fact very rarely offers any direct insights into her thoughts and feelings, she supresses and represses everything that she can.) The loneliness and air of depression which hangs like a cloud above the orphaned Lucy is one of the things which has me class this as a 'Gothic' book, although strictly speaking it's not. There are a lot of Gothic elements but they have mostly all been twisted around to rather mock at the standard tropes instead of enforcing them. Gothic features from the Wikipedia pages: Virginal Maiden - Technically this does apply to Lucy Snow and she certainly does have a great deal of the vulnerable about her but I think that the mantle of 'Virginal Maiden' falls more readily onto the shoulders of one of the two other main maidens - (view spoiler)[ Polly. After all she ends up with the 'Hero' and she is beautiful and far more perfectly suited than plain and introverted Lucy. (hide spoiler)] Older Foolish Woman - Madame Beck. Although actually very clever and business like she is rendered somewhat ridiculous by her machinations and secretive spying manner. Hero - Here we have the handsome and charming (view spoiler)[Dr. John. Devoted to his mother, kind natured and industrious, clearly the perfect hero. Except that in actual fact he's rather stupidly infatuated with an unworthy woman, often heartless and occasionally cruel in his self absorption. But he's good looking, so obviously he's the hero and he'll end up with the beautiful and virtuous maiden in accepted trope fashion. (hide spoiler)] Tyrant/Villain - This would be M. Paul Emanuel who frequently storms and rages at Lucy in grand tyrant mode and often gratuitously insults her for being a) A Woman, b) Too Educated, c) Too Uneducated, d) English and e) A Protestant. But underneath all of his crotchets and tempests he is a kindly and decent man who likes Lucy very much and wishes to be friends with her. Bandits and Ruffians - We don't see many of those but on Lucy's travels to France she runs into many characters who cheat her. She also has an encounter with two men on the streets of Villette who scare her so badly that she loses her way. She later encounters these 'two ruffians' and discovers that they are respected professors. Clergy - As a respectable protestant in ungodly and heretical catholic France Lucy is subject to conversion attempts which she finds foolish and tiresome. She forms a connection of sorts with a Jesuit priest who acts occasionally in underhanded way; unfortunately he doesn't descend into full on malicious villainy and there is no suggestion of Satanic Worship. Setting - Rather than an isolated monastery or castle, Lucy finds herself in a girls school. It certainly has walls but she is free to leave at any time. All Gothic Heroines must suffer isolation and imprisonment but in Villette the true imprisoning lies inside her own head as Lucy battles the demons of depression and lack of self-worth. As well as all of these we can throw in a smattering of the supernatural with the legend of the ghostly nun who still walks the school. Obviously silly superstition - or is it...? A great read, I highly enjoyed it and even forgave the numerous ridiculous coincidences which were worthy of Dickens.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Catie

    When compared to Jane Eyre, this novel seems often pronounced the more mature work of Charlotte Bronte. I think that’s true. However, this book is not more mature in the sense that it’s more open-minded, worldly, or settled. If Jane Eyre is the novel of a woman who believes in true love, hope, and positive destiny; who believes that there's a reason for strife, then this is the novel that’s written by that woman when she’s been disappointed in love and has lost her family and her dreams. This is When compared to Jane Eyre, this novel seems often pronounced the more mature work of Charlotte Bronte. I think that’s true. However, this book is not more mature in the sense that it’s more open-minded, worldly, or settled. If Jane Eyre is the novel of a woman who believes in true love, hope, and positive destiny; who believes that there's a reason for strife, then this is the novel that’s written by that woman when she’s been disappointed in love and has lost her family and her dreams. This is the novel that’s written when she’s decided that it’s better to just stop hoping. I had no idea what this novel was about, or any idea of the plot before starting, but I was immediately swept up in Lucy. She’s an amazing contrast of inner vibrancy, intellect, and imagination with a hard outer shell of suppression and containment. She doesn’t have much to hope for or to look forward to in this life, but she’s surviving. She’s stifling that part of herself that wants to hope and dream. She’s trying not to be young, even though she is. “Oh, my childhood! I had feelings: passive as I lived, little as I spoke, cold as I looked, when I thought of past days, I could feel. About the present, it was better to be stoical; about the future – such a future as mine – to be dead. And in catalepsy and a dead trance, I studiously held the quick of my nature.” When she found that initial tentative friendship and dared to hope for more, my own imagination leapt to heights of romantic fancy. I dreamed impossible dreams for Lucy. When she prayed not to be too needy, when she waited in agony for any little attention, when she treasured her small store of unremarkable letters, I felt that desolation and anguish right along with her. And when she buried those letters, I felt the weight of her crushing Reason. There would be no soaring hopes for Lucy. There are really two novels here, much like Lucy Snowe’s two drafts of her letters to Graham. One is filled with ragged loneliness and need, yet bright with smothered vivacity, imagination, and desperate hope. The other professes to be content, mild, contained, and settled in its place. Whether this is intentional or not, it is ever-present. Lucy is, by her own narration, a dull-witted and simple sort of person: someone who’s content to sit in the shadows while other more blessed of her acquaintance are favored. And yet, she is quite obviously not content. It feels like this book has been censored by her own hand, but not completely: she can’t help but release her pen to do as it may on a few occasions. Her prose becomes full of sweeping metaphor, punctuation becomes fluid, and her feelings are loosed. These are the most interesting paragraphs in the novel. ”This hag, this Reason, would not let me look up, or smile, or hope: she could not rest unless I were altogether crushed, cowed, broken-in, and broken down. According to her, I was born only to work for a piece of bread, to await the pains of death, and steadily through all life to despond. Reason might be right; yet no wonder we are glad at times to defy her, to rush from under her rod and give a truant hour to Imagination - her soft, bright foe, our sweet Help, our divine Hope. We shall and must break bounds at intervals, despite the terrible revenge that awaits our return.” There’s so much that she doesn’t tell the reader. Not just the identity of a certain character which she fails to mention for a hundred pages, or the little attentions paid to her by a certain other character, which she fails to mention for several hundred pages. No, there’s her attitude toward both of these characters, which is so obviously much more than just friendship. Her constant repression of her feelings for Graham is tangible, especially once he’s been buried and set aside. She’s long-winded and poetic in her support for his match with Paulina, and yet I could feel the bitterness, the jealousy, and the anguish there. In many small ways does she evidence her discontent: in her desperate need not to be seen by Graham in public, in her complete refusal to ponder just how she feels about Graham’s character, and in her dislike of the position as Polly’s confidant and eventual advocate. Lucy, once a happy companion to an older woman, is adamant in her refusal of a similar position with Polly. She proclaims that she will never be a companion, even at three times her current salary. ”Rather than be a companion, I would have made shirts, and starved. I was no bright lady’s shadow – not Miss de Bassompierre’s.” She suffers through the reading and re-reading of Graham’s letters with Polly. She compares his attentions to Polly to the small attention that he once paid her. She even, at one point, compares Polly’s appearance to that of a small dog. These are not the actions of a satisfied woman. And really, for me, her attraction to Monsieur Paul feels like settling. M. Paul is a man who notices her more than most, but who I still don’t believe knows her. He is described as ”a little man of unreasonable moods” with “points of resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte.” He’s a man in his late forties who loves cigars and seems more bent on censoring and controlling Lucy than anything else. Even when he professes to be her friend, she must contend with his erratic and mercurial behavior. I suppose by the end, I do believe that she loves him, but it’s an uncomfortable and ill-fitting sort of love. What’s most interesting to me about M. Paul is that he is supposedly largely based on a professor who Charlotte Bronte fell in love with at one time, but couldn’t be with because he was married (also, Graham is most likely modeled after her publisher, George Smith). I guess that simple fashioning of a character after a real life person isn’t what interests me; what interest me are the differences between M. Paul and the real life professor. (view spoiler)[In this novel, M. Paul is separated from Lucy by a blameless (on his part) devotion to his faith and his lost love. His relations scheme and plot to gain wealth by shipping him off, and so he and Lucy are separated, eventually forever by his death. He is given near saint-like status in his charity and sacrifice. All blame is placed on the shoulders of others and never on him. Whereas, I have to believe that in real life, the circumstances of her separation from her professor were very different. (hide spoiler)] Perhaps Charlotte hadn’t lost all capacity to hope and imagine after all. Lucy refers several times to her belief that certain people (like Graham and Polly) are blessed by fate to live easy lives, filled with happiness and satisfaction. They are “nature’s elect,” while she is one of the luckless shadows, forced to battle through life with only the hope of Heaven to sustain her. The ending supports this claim of hers and it is hard to read. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading this book, but it affected me strongly and it has left its imprint. Perfect Musical Pairing (as if this review isn’t already long enough) Jean Sibelius – Symphony No. 2 This piece is lively, with moments of intense and sweeping emotion that seem curtailed by the changing dynamics. It feels as if it is bursting, only to be reined in. The final movement feels joyous and released, which I suppose is my wish for Lucy Snowe.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    "You are good, you are beautiful, but you are not mine." Bravissima, Brontë! Villette: melancholy, bitter, remorseless and much less urgent than Jane Eyre. And yet, it is a far more nuanced, accomplished, complex and mesmerising work than its older sibling. Charlotte Brontë's final novel is an exquisite examination of loneliness and unrequited love. It’s a deeply interior novel and whilst the paucity of action might act as a deterrent to some, the dark introspection of Lucy Snowe and her existence "You are good, you are beautiful, but you are not mine." Bravissima, Brontë! Villette: melancholy, bitter, remorseless and much less urgent than Jane Eyre. And yet, it is a far more nuanced, accomplished, complex and mesmerising work than its older sibling. Charlotte Brontë's final novel is an exquisite examination of loneliness and unrequited love. It’s a deeply interior novel and whilst the paucity of action might act as a deterrent to some, the dark introspection of Lucy Snowe and her existence on the periphery of society is endlessly fascinating. Actually, Lucy Snowe herself might act as a deterrent; she’s watchful and malicious, emotionally unavailable, closed and inherently unknowable. She’s notorious for her unreliability, snobbery, reticence about her personal circumstances and, quite frankly, her miserable outlook on life. But sometimes impassive can be mistaken for passive: Villette is at its heart a story about how to be an independent chick in a world that doesn’t necessarily want you. And as for Lucy’s reservation, let’s just say that it makes Villette very, very unpredictable. This is perhaps most well known for being Brontë’s most autobiographical work, drawing on her experiences as a student and then a teacher in Brussels, as well as her disturbing fascination with her (married) Belgian tutor, Monsieur Heger. It is also widely acknowledged as her first attempt at a novel, The Professor, with a serious revamp. Whilst Charlotte’s violent religious intolerance and devout physiognomist status make another appearance here, what sets Villette apart for me is its powerful depiction of mental health. To a modern reader, it becomes painfully apparent that Lucy Snowe suffers from clinical depression, or what she perfectly describes as a “sorrowful indifference to existence... - a despairing resignation to reach betimes the end of all things earthly.” Although this unique insight into a Victorian perspective of neurosis is especially interesting, Brontë’s presentation of the experience is startlingly modern. (Also, Villette is worth the read just for the brilliantly psychedelic episode where Lucy gets high on opium. I rest my case.) As usual, the prose is beautiful - if a little lacking in economy and saturated with French and bizarre imagery, as Charlotte Brontë is often wont to do. Her descriptions of setting in particular are absolutely exquisite - this description of a chandelier in a theatre left me breathless: "Pendant from the dome, flamed a mass that dazzled me - a mass, I thought, of rock-crystal, sparkling with facets, streaming with drops, ablaze with stars, and gorgeously tinged with dews of gems dissolved, or fragments of rainbows shivered." The narrative itself gets off to a rocky and rather uninspiring start, but the seemingly irrelevant observations of the early chapters are crucial to the intricate framework of the novel. Villette in many areas does not feel as though it is Lucy's story: she narrates the lives of secondary characters with acute detail and perception whilst withholding information about her own. She's watchful; disturbingly so. The romances/passions is where the novel falls short for me - Lucy's emotional torture is almost unbearable to read, primarily because she never allows herself to acknowledge her feelings. In this facet, the novel is intrinsically unsatisfying. We all know that Charlotte had a bit of a soft spot for capricious and brooding Byronic heroes, but one character in particular takes the biscuit. Lucy Snowe genuinely falls for two very different guys, and whilst one is not entirely undeserving of that affection, the other most certainly is. Without naming names, this particular character is choleric, tyrannical and not entirely fanciable, to be honest (view spoiler)[Monsieur Paul hits Madame Beck, for God’s sake! He frequently humiliates Lucy and attempts to control /censor what she consumes eg. the Cleopatra and tearing pages out of her books. Well, if that's what you're into... (hide spoiler)] . I appreciate that Brontë orchestrated the ‘romance’ to progress subtly, but the relationship is unhealthy and the epitome of emotional dependency. No, just no. (view spoiler)[Although Charlotte does appropriately kill him off before Lucy could make the mistake of marrying him, so maybe she did learn from Anne?!! (hide spoiler)] Despite its frustrations, Villette is a wonderful, wonderful novel; so intricately plotted and layered with such profound observation. Ultimately though, I couldn’t fully emotionally commit myself because the recipients of Lucy’s love were not worthy of it. If you decide to give Brontë 's grand finale a go, don't expect Jane Eyre, because you ain't gonna get it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    April (Aprilius Maximus)

    I have very mixed feelings about this one! On one hand, I absolutely ADORE Charlotte's writing because it is just so, so, so, SO beautiful. However, this novel started off being quite disjointed and confusing and I was often left puzzled by the randomness of the events and the varied pacing. After reading Charlotte Brontë: A Life, I could clearly see the parallels between Villette and Charlotte's personal life. This book was practically an autobiography and in that sense, it was super different I have very mixed feelings about this one! On one hand, I absolutely ADORE Charlotte's writing because it is just so, so, so, SO beautiful. However, this novel started off being quite disjointed and confusing and I was often left puzzled by the randomness of the events and the varied pacing. After reading Charlotte Brontë: A Life, I could clearly see the parallels between Villette and Charlotte's personal life. This book was practically an autobiography and in that sense, it was super different to Jane Eyre (which is my favourite book in the whole world). It wasn't an epic love story - it was realistic and depressing, but I LOVED how Charlotte portrayed depression in the novel, especially in a time when depression wasn't even a 'thing'. Charlotte was such a revolutionary and I can definitely see why people love this book and I can't wait to read her other work!

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