I read this book because of my enjoyment with Jane Eyre and her sister's book Wuthering Heights. I can not compare this with them. It is a slow moving and laborious read. If you do not have a command of the French language you miss a lot of the dialog through out the book. It is about a young woman of good family who's family has lost their fortune. She ends up in France and the story goes from there. It is not until the last 100 pages or so that what you have trudged through comes to light. Only then does it get a little interesting. A disappointment, however, if you do not have another book pressing in on you to read attempt this one, just to say you have read it. : )
This book is startlingly deep and profound on many levels that it makes me wonder that Jane Eyre receives most of the attention / accolades. Bronte gives us what is probably the most truthful and accurate look at life of a lower class citizen of this era. Knowing Bronte's biography fairly well, you can feel the author's deliberate attempt to be truthful to her readers as well as herself. Financial desperation, jealousy, frivolous love, true unblinded love, deep depression and human nature are the focus.
I've read many reviews from all time periods on this book and one thing stands out in this book I feel is missed. The cold and unfeeling way people of wealth view and interact with the world and how it deeply and sometimes devastatingly affects those of the lower class. For example, the lead character has no friends but for a Dr. and his mother, they know this, but for months go without even writing her a letter. Upon meeting up with her again they merely say, "Oh, I'm sure you've been fine and didn't think of us at all." Yet these are considered to be the people who have treated Lucy Snowe the kindest of most of her life.
The beginning is ambiguous as to who the main character is and the ending has some critics crying foul, but for this reader they worked its charm of mystery and pulled you into this woman's life.
STUNNING. Get it. It's not anything like the back of the book makes it sound, it's Charlotte's heart unveiled: pure, honest, genuine and loving. This is a romance that exceeds that of even Elizabeh and Darcy! EVERYONE -PARTICULARLY WOMEN - SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. It refines and redefines moral beauty.
Charlotte Bronte. Char-lotte Bron-te. How do you do this? How? Jane Eyre is my most favorite book of all time. But Villette. Oh Villette. How do I even begin? Well, I'll begin by quoting George Eliot: "A still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre."
(Could I have two all-time favorite books?)
Villette follows the life of its heroine, Lucy Snowe. Left destitute, Lucy leaves England and finds herself working at a French boarding school in Villette. Lucy, like her literary sister Jane Eyre, must rely on herself and endure. But, unlike Jane Eyre who edures hopefully, Lucy Snowe endures despairingly. Seemingly cold and never letting her guard down, you learn very little of what Lucy thinks or feels until midway through the book. Hiding behind her plain features and undesireablility, she is often referred to as being as inoffensive as a shadow (p.358). She hides her intelligence and ambitions behind this facade and keeps them unknown to those around her and to the reader.
Villette is a psychoanalytical book. It's hugely Gothic in its tone and story. It's romantic. It's confusing. It's surprising. It's heart-wrenching. Quite simply, it's genius. I can't even begin to summarize or praise it without giving away things that are better off being discovered by the reader. So I'll say to you: Read Villette. Make sure you read an edition with notes on the French translation (though lots of it will still be untranslated). Be patient.
For the time being, I'll have two all-time favorite books, but I wouldn't be surprised if Villette surpassed Jane Eyre. Soon.
"By every vessel he wrote; he wrote as he gave and as he loved, in full-handed, full-hearted plentitude. He wrote because he liked to write; he did not abridge, because he cared not to abridge. He sat down, he took pen and paper, because he loved Lucy and had much to say to her; because he was faithful and thoughtful, because he was tender and true. There was no sham and no cheat and no hollow unreal in him. Apology never dropped her slippery oil on his lips - never proffered, by his pen, her coward feints and paltry nullities: he would give neither a stone, nor an excuse - neither a scorpion, nor a disappointment; his letters were real food that nourished, living water that refreshed." p. 557
This is one of the best books I ever read, and I have read every Bronte book published. Truly heartbreaking as a Bronte novel should be.