Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Thoughts on "Villette" [Book Review]


My first book review was about Anne Brontë's "Agnes Grey". My second one, written by her older sister Charlotte Brontë follows a similar theme:
A young woman, in this case Lucy Snowe, leaves behind her home to work somewhere else. She even leaves England to go to a unkown country and finally ends up in a supposedly French city called Villette. There she starts to work at a girls' school, first as a girl for everything, then as an English teacher.

At school she is surrounded not only by interesting, but also vain students, but she also makes closer aquaintance with Dr. John Bretton, a fellow Englishman whom she falls ins love with and then there is this passionate, but also very peculiar professor Emanuel whose position in her heart rises as the novel goes on.
"He took my hand in one of his, with the other he put back my bonnet; he looked into my face, his luminous smile went out, his lips expressed something almost like the wordless language of a mother who finds a child greatly and unexpectedly changed, broken with illness, or worn-out by want. A check supervened." (p. 492)
Being written from Lucy's point of view, you get a deep insight into her thoughts and how she slowly changes her mind about certain people - most importantly about M. Paul Emanuel and Dr.Bretton.
You can easily follow the development of her character from a rather timid and unsure girl to a more confident, young woman, who soon starts to follow her own path.

One of "Villette's" stanger aspects might be the envolvement of a ghost - a nun Lucy sees several times throghout the story. Even though this book is mainly realistic this point really stands out, as it gives the whole story the slight undertone of a gothic novel.

Compared to "Agnes Grey" I enjoyed this book a lot more. Apart from the fact that it is longer, thus providing more room for action, it shows a lot more character development. While Agnes Grey stays a bit flat throughout the novel, Lucy Snowe changes slowly, but constantly.

I also want to mention the end of the novel, as it was really surprising. The book had the tendency to drag on without memorable events,but the last pages had a quite fast pace of storytelling with an unexpected end that made up for some of these deficiencies (even though it was not the end I had hoped for).
"Villette" was first published in 1853 as Brontë's third novel
Even though I might not consider "Villette" as an easy read, I can truly recommend it for those who enjoy novel that provide deep insights into the main character and involve a romantic twist. I almost regret reading it during the summertime, for I imagine it to be a nice Autumn-read, snuggled up on the couch.

P.s. For those French-speaking folks out there, it might also be a nice chance to polish your French up, because some parts of the dialogues are written in French.

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