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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Review: Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Reblogged from Carpe Librum:
Villette - A.S. Byatt, Charlotte Brontë, Ignes Sodre

In honor of Charlotte Bronte's birthday today, here is my review of her spectacular book, Villette. "Villette! Villette! Have you read it?"


I love Lucy Snowe! From the moment I read, "I seemed to hold two lives - the life of thought, and that of reality; and, provided the former was nourished with a sufficiency of the strange necromantic joys of fancy, the privileges of the latter might remain limited to daily bread, hourly work, and a roof of shelter," I knew that she and I were two of one mold.


Lucy is seen as a different person by each of the characters around her, yet not one of their visions matches her picture of herself. The love, devotion, and true friendship that Lucy yearns for dangles teasingly just outside her reach, and she is compelled to escape her real world through books and teaching responsibilities. I could feel her inner turmoil as she observes events never truly feeling she is a participant, or if she is a participant she must be one whom no one would miss were she not there.


Charlotte Bronte describes Lucy's feelings with such vivid detail that I was sure I must be experiencing them myself. I thought I would look up from my page and see Graham across the room and hope for him to glance my way, though I knew his look would not return the love I was searching for. The emotions are so clear that I felt I was really reading a diary and wondered how much of what was written was Bronte's own feelings and not just literary creation. Who could write such without having it in their heart?


I wanted to start reading this book again within moments of finishing it to catch whatever I may have missed during my first obsessive read. Upon finishing it, I threw it down and said, "This is no Jane Austen! Where is my happy ending?!" This only enhances the quality of this novel, though there is nothing story-book or fairy-tale about it. It is not another Jane Eyre (one of my favorite books). The characters are more complex, more real, more . . . depressing.


Quick note on edition: make sure you read one with footnotes as there are many untranslated French phrases - I would have been lost without my well-annotated version.