Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Review of 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte

Review of 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte

I LOVE the Brontes. Wuthering Heights is my favourite book in the entire world, and Jane Eyre comes up pretty close too. I've even read the slightly less well known Anne Bronte. Having said all of that, I really didn't fall in love with Villette as much as I did with the other novels.

Villette felt kinda torturously long. I mean, I've read a billion and one long novels from the same period, but this really felt like it dragged. I just couldn't connect with the protagonist Lucy Snowe as much as I've done with similar heroines. Everything about her just felt a little 2D. We  whizzed through her childhood and then spent the majority of the novel bound up in just a couple of years of her trying to find her way in the world. It was a sort of 'coming of age story' but without the romance I felt.

I mean, there was actual romance in the novel, just no stylistic romance. Lucy fell in love with a close family friend, Dr Bretton, and he was kind to her, but threw her aside as soon as he found a younger, prettier, richer replacement. He was never really intending to go any farther than friends with Lucy, but she didn't quite see this.

I think the main reason why I didn't get on with the novel is because I didn't find Lucy's character admirable, or particularly intriguing. She works at a school for girls in France, and a teacher who works alongside her is utterly vile to her. He makes her cry, feel out of place and feel inferior at every possible opportunity. But later in the novel we learn that he's a great philanthropist, and this makes him some kind of hero deemed worthy of Lucy's love??? He's even made out to seem like some kind of martyr for loving Lucy even though she's a Protestant. And naturally his behaviour is explained away as 'just the way he is'. It's kind of like the whole 'boys will be boys thing' *rolls eyes*.

You get a slightly similar relationship in Jane Eyre, with Mr Rochester being quite unfriendly to the governess, Jane, but it's definitely not on anywhere near as large a scale. All in all, I'm glad that I saw another side to Bronte's writing, but I can definitely see why Jane Eyre has remained the more popular novel!

Have you read it? What did you think?

1 comment:

  1. We didn't really whiz through her childhood - she's 14 at the start of the book but keeps her childhood and background deliberately secret - she's an unreliable narrator and her clouded past adds another layer to the unfoldings. As for her feeling 2D- that's a pretty baffling statement considering the book dives into loneliness, depression and creativity with an unprecedented psychological depth -- this kind of raw, inner study of a character had never been done in a novel before.