Virginia's Reviews > Villette

Villette by Charlotte Brontë
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Jan 22, 08

bookshelves: you-should-read-this
Read in September, 2004

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.
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Salma Awesome- couldn't have put it better myself.


Kate This is a fantastic review -- and so true!


Monique This is the best commentary I have ever read of Villette. But..if you truly recognize the book's brilliance, why only the three stars?


message 4: by Brittany (new)

Brittany I haven't read Villette since I went on a Bronte binge in high school a decade ago. All I remember is being enraged at the end of the book, but this review has me thinking I'd likely enjoy it at this stage of life. I'll think I'll pluck it off the shelf and give it a go again this weekend, thanks!


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

great review, it makes me want to read it as soon as possible to know what do you mean!


Aura I have just finished this novel. I am disappointed I did not find that power in the novel, in Lucy Snowe, and the only sign I could get that Lucy 'hates' the reader is the harsh ending - I could make nothing of it. She wanted to convey she got married and that she - what? that she was not in a good mood at the moment? I'm sorry to bother you with such nonsense but I though I did not understand Lucy and, consequently, undervalued the novel. Villette was the last Bronte novel left for me to read and I have always regarded it as a dessert.


Karen This rings so true, but I'm not sure if it's actually the case. The reader could be the one person she does like (this is her confiding in the reader isn't it?) and we are just so wrapped in the negativity of her story we feel like we are looked down upon too.


Farfished9 I think you're on the right track..but I would encourage you to keep going with this thought..Why does Lucy Snowe hate you? What deeper feelings and thoughts could you read if you weren't primarily concerned with your own feelings? Maybe *you* are Lucy Snowe...=)
Good review


Nichole This review is so spot on, I don't even want to post one of my own!


Victoria Blacke Brilliant


Rahatski You nailed it!


message 12: by Ilil (new)

Ilil Arbel Your analysis is amazing. I did not think about it... at first reading I was so angry with her secrecy and strangeness I did not even like the book. On second reading I admire it beyond words. But yes, she hates me. She has no idea how much I want her to be happy.


message 13: by Lyla (new)

Lyla Wilson I disagree... what about at the very end of the novel when she won't ell us the truth about what really happened because she wants to give us hope? Really good review, though.


Yasaman A this is a great review


Rosemarie I think you just don't understand her personality type - introvert and an Enneagram "5" - she doesn't hate the reader - she's confiding in the reader - it's just something not easy for her type to do. I'm sure many people misunderstand her - just like her real life counterparts are misunderstood! I say in my review that this is probably the very reason Villette is not as popular as Jane Eyre.


message 16: by Dara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dara I agree Rosemarie - also I've always understood Lucy's holding back as part of her general sense of denial, stuffing down and hiding from her own emotions, telling herself her wants don't matter because Reason is always right. She seems to have a deep inferiority complex, so deep she doesn't even explain it, it's just there in the background all the time. This is an uncomfortable read because I felt terribly sorry for Lucy throughout, but never once felt that she hated her readers or looks down upon them at all.


Vienna Lucy doesn't hate us, she is just afraid to trust us, which is understandable considering she was betrayed many times. She is an extremely considerate character and the only thing she judges her readers about is their affections towards her, which, again, is very reasonable since she hadn't received much affection throughout her life. We all perceive things differently, just as we do with this character, however, Lucy Snowe is an amazing heroine whichever way she is perceived.


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