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1001 book reviews > Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 4 stars

Charlotte Bronte writes beautiful prose and while many do not like this book as well as Jane Eyre, I think it might be her strongest work. Lucy Snowe is someone I could know, and like, today. She is strong and feminist. She has goals that are separate from the man in her life. She loves her man, and yet she seems happiest and most fulfilled during the years he is away. She is independent enough that it seems she would be fine if he were not to be in her future. She is wonderfully strong and yet she is far from perfect. There were times when I found her whiny and bratty, and I liked that about her. I like flawed, real characters. This is the most real Bronte book that I have read.

Kristel (kristelh) | 3879 comments Mod
Villette is the semi autobiographical story of Lucy Snowe, a young woman of 23 who travels to Villette, a fictional town but modeled after Brussels, Belgium, where the author and her sister did travel for teaching positions. Ms Snowe does not know French, travels alone and is fortunate to find a position as a teacher in a boarding school because she speaks English. While traveling she befriends a young, shallow woman by the name of Ginevra Fanshawe, reunites with her Godmother and her son and becomes friends with M. Paul Carlos David Emanuel. She also runs into a former acquaintance named Polly, a serious young woman of high virtue. This is a Gothic romance and there are spectres of a nun and love that is met with adversity. Themes include the clash of protestantism and catholicism and gender roles and isolation.
This is the author's third novel, the first being Jane Eyre. The first is probably a better story in scope but this novel is enjoyable, the protagonist has many admirable characteristics and the men in the book are generally of good qualities. This novel was criticized at the time for not being suitably feminine in portraying Lucy Snowe, therefore I think the author was successful in getting her social commentary on the life of single women in Victorian England heard.

Read 2013

Amanda Dawn | 932 comments Just read this for my TBR and overall I loved it and gave it 4 stars. I’m a big Bronte fan and I’m pretty sure this is the last major novel of theirs I hadn’t read yet. While Jane Eyre does still remain my favorite Charlotte Bronte novel, this one had a lot going for it.

The odd way that Lucy and the narrative structure cloaks ambiguity or deceit over everything (like the family drama that caused her to leave, Dr. John’s identity etc) really adds to this off-kilter ambiance that lends to conveying Lucy’s feelings and situation in the book.

The recurring motif of the buried nun that gives the air of gothic drama was great too. It amplifies the themes of consequences for transgression that preys on Lucy, and the reveal with where the habit actually comes from is brilliant.

I loved the ending as well: it is exactly what I wanted for Lucy.

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