Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Charlotte Bronte (1816-1865)

I started reading Villette one, it was recommended to me from a good friend and two, because I liked Charlotte Bronte’s other book, Jane Eyre. I thought Villette might be a dark tale filled with secrets and sadness. I was sadly disappointed. Villette didn’t live up to my expectations in that area. It was hardly what I expected at all.

The tale told in Villette is one of a young English girl that experiences untold hardships and makes her way to a little town in France to make a living as a school teacher. Lucy Snowe is very much a loner in this foreign town and this loneliness brings her to great despair. She meets up by odd chances with old acquaintances and for a time becomes happy again. She goes back and forth between her happiness and despair. There is a certain professor at her school with whom she has a very strange relationship with. Slowly she falls in love with him but that is all I can say. The ending is alright. I was a little disappointed in the explanations given, they were somewhat vague.

Lucy Snowe is a very solitary character. She is very reclusive and spends a lot of time alone. At times I think she is very brave. She travels to a foreign land and tries to teach English at a French school. But other times I see her as very weak and unable to take care of herself. She is given the weak woman stereotype of the day. A couple of times she has a nervous breakdown and I just want to yell at her to get it together. I can relate to her a little bit in her reclusiveness. But I don’t understand how she can be so weak.

There are many interesting characters in this book. Most are mysterious in their ways. The most interesting character after Lucy Snowe is M. Paul Emmanuel. I never really understood this character throughout the whole book. At first he seems to be very harsh and unforgiving. But later he is described as loved by all the students and teachers alike. So I believe now that I have completed the story, that he was a very strict teacher, but he was a good teacher. And for that everyone loved him. Each of the characters are very different from one another yet they each carry a mysterious aire about them. Most of the characters are connected to one another in some way.

The story is told from the point of view of Lucy Snowe. It is written in first person and so we as the reader is limited to the knowledge that she has. In this story it worked well to keep things unknown until the main character knows them. It keeps some suspense to the story. Personally it is not my favorite style. I like to know what the characters don’t know. Being that the story was told in first person, it was told completely in chronological order. There is no skipping around.

The location is part of what makes the story. Lucy is from England, had some troubles there, and went to find her fortune in France. She ends up at a school house and starts her life there. The language barrier is her first difficulty. Then she faces the loneliness of living in a boarding house alone when the children go off to their holiday. The little town that she is in is the perfect setting for her wanderings. The time period is fitting as well.

I thought this story would be sadder than it was. There were moments of sadness, some of mystery, some of suspense, but it almost didn’t move very much for me. At one point while I was reading, I wondered where this story was going. There isn’t a real big climax to it. Its just the story of a girl trying to make her way.

I can’t say that there was one thing I liked about this book. It wasn’t horrible to read, it just didn’t go anywhere. One thing I didn’t like was all the French phrases throughout the whole book. I enjoy a book more when I can understand everything they say.

The ending of the book was a little disappointing. It was very vague in the description. I don’t want to give it away, but it did upset me that there was no explanation. I like happy endings were there are rainbows and ponies. This book doesn’t tell me what happens. It’s a little frustrating.

My lasting impression of this book is that its not my favorite. I’m glad I read it so now I can say I’ve read two Charlotte Bronte books. But I’m not going to strongly recommend it. I didn’t feel strong emotions when I read it. And I like to feel for my characters. I do think that a lot of women would like this book. There is a bit of romance, but its more subtle than most desire it to be. I think people could relate to at least one of the characters in this book. There is a wide variety and they are all unique. So I would give this a middle rating. Not my favorite, but I could see that some would love it.