137. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

All these years I have deprived myself from the literary genius that is Charlotte Bronte and I always get angry – whenever I finish one of her books- or waiting this long.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte was the first book that I read by the famous author (although it was her last book to be published), and I was instantly captivated within the first 10 pages.

Yes! Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is more famous and popular than Villette, but somehow I bought a wrong copy of the former which wasn’t easy for me to read so I completely forgo the idea of reading any of her other books.

However, all these years later here I am with a review and a total fangirl of Ms. Charlotte Bronte.

Villette is the story of Lucy Snowe who is the narrator of her story. She engages the reader in the beginning with her stay at a family friend’s home called Mrs.Bretton. a widow survived by her son Called Graham John. A fine young boy.

“Wise people say it is folly to think anybody perfect; and as to likes and dislikes, we should be friendly to all, and worship none”

They soon greet another guest – a young girl not more than 10 years I suppose – who shares a room with Lucy and although, she is irritable and sad in the beginning, but soon develops a friendship with her.

“If life be a war, it seemed my destiny to conduct it single-handed.”

However, due to unfortunate incident back home, Lucy ends up leaving and loses contact with the Brettons. Soon, we get to know that she is without family and money, and ultimately leaves England to earn money as a Governess in a city called Villette located in Brussels.

“For a long time the fear of seeming singular scared me away; but by degrees, as people became accustomed to me and my habits, and to such shadows of peculiarity as were engrained in my nature…”

She finds employment after many obstacles and mishaps, at a girls only School run by a lady called Mrs. Beck.

In the beginning she was hired to govern the three children of Mrs. Beck but soon after finds a opening to work as an English Teacher at the school itself, when the previous English teacher refuses to show up.

“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.

Her time at the school leads up to many experiences that challenge Lucy emotionally, physically and mentally. We see her struggle, gain confidence, and deal with life changing events, all the while being withheld from the actual thoughts going on in her mind.

“But afterwards, is there nothing more for me in life – no true home – nothing to be dearer to me than myself?”

You see, the reason why the writing in the book is so addictive, is that the character of Lucy has got to be the most complex human ever made. It’s like that friend you have who wants to tell you all about her woes and secrets but somehow cannot put them in words.

“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.”

Either for fear of judgment, embarrassment or self denial, Lucy Snowe lets the reader’s mind wander far and wide. You’ll be stuck thinking about what could’ve happened? Why is she like this? Did she suffer a great deal?

“I like to see flowers growing, but when they are gathered, they cease to please. I look on them as things rootless and perishable; their likeness to life makes me sad. I never offer flowers to those I love; I never wish to receive them from hands dear to me.”

And the thing is you’ll never know her complete story…

Even the ending has to be the most unexplained yet complete ending I’ve ever read.

“I believe in some blending of hope and sunshine sweetening the worst lots. I believe that this life is not all; neither the beginning nor the end. I believe while I tremble; I trust while I weep.”

You just don’t know completely know what happened, or how Lucy is dealing with it(by it I mean the end), but you feel this sense of completion coming round the corner, which tells you that either way you’ll have to be content with it even if the main character isn’t.

I suppose, Lucy Snowe, the orb of your life is not to be so rounded: for you the crescent-phase must suffice. Very good. I see a huge mass of my fellow- creatures in no better circumstances.

There are times when you want Lucy to let down that guard and actually stand up for herself! You want to tell her that she doesn’t need to take all that crap that is being thrown at her.

Or that she has to stop thinking about all the bad things yet to come, and enjoy the sunshine of the present. With Jane Eyre (review coming soon) her character values her independency and integrity a lot.

Lucy does as well, but somehow she feels weak and strong at the same time. The troubles she went through and challenges she overcame are said to be intense but you don’t know what they are.

Similarly, all the point of views in Villette are  her own, so you never know what the other characters actually think, which gives the story a very singular perspective on the events that unfold.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte is the type of story that stays in your mind for the feelings and reflections it invokes in your mind.

But the writing, everyone, the writing is truly bittersweet in the best possible way.

Onto the basics:

  1. Rating: 5.0/5.0
  2. Favorite quote: “One moment longer,” whispered solitude and the summer moon, “stay with us: all is truly quiet now; for another quarter of an hour your presence will not be missed: the day’s heat and bustle have tired you; enjoy these precious minutes.”
  3. Reader level: This one is hard, there is a lot of French involved as well. So be sure the copy you have provides translation.
  4. Should you read:  oh absolutely.
  5. Would I read it again: I really want to start it again.

Till next time,

-Sarah

 

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