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Villette (Vintage Classics) by Charlotte…

Villette (Vintage Classics) (original 1853; edition 2009)

by Charlotte Bronte

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5,83994724 (3.9)3 / 404
Title:Villette (Vintage Classics)
Authors:Charlotte Bronte
Info:Vintage (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 672 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:TBR 2012 & PRIOR

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Villette by Charlotte Brontë (1853)


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English (87)  German (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (93)
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Villette - Charlotte Bronte
Audio performance by Davina Porter
4 stars

My initial response to this book was that for me it barely deserved 3 stars. I just didn’t like Lucy Snowe. I could pity her, orphaned, penniless, forced to find what limited, demeaning work was available to her, but I couldn’t like her. She shows a certain amount of pluck when she launches herself to the continent in search of a better future, but she has no real plan, and allows herself to be blown about randomly by circumstance. She continually tells the reader that she is not very smart, and I have to agree with her. How hard is it to detect an obvious schoolgirl prank? I did not care for her anti-catholic rantings. (Although I can see this as a natural, expressive consequence from an author who grew up in a isolated Yorkshire parsonage.) Lucy is judgmental and dismissive of just about everyone, even the people she is fond of. Somehow, Lucy Snowe seems just a little bit off, emotionally unstable. Maybe that’s what George Eliot liked about her.

I’ve read Jane Eyre many times. I’ll probably read it a few more times, but I cannot see myself ever reading Villette again. The coincidentally recurring characters in this book are so very contrived that the whole story felt staged with paper cut-outs. I found the long, untranslated passages of French annoying, but with google, not insurmountable. Frequently, once translated, these passages only added to the excessive amount of repetition in this story. Admittedly, Bronte was spot on in portraying the petty gossip, jealousies, and ‘mean girls’ nastiness of the staff and pupils of Madame Beck’s pensionnat. I was amazed at how much it resembled the staff room atmosphere in the elementary school of my own teaching career. Realistic, but not a place that I want to revisit.

So I won’t read it again, but I don’t regret the time I spent with this book. Even more than Jane Eyre, this book is a feminist statement. As Lucy Snowe, Charlotte Bronte makes some biting social commentary about women’s education and financial insecurity. Lucy is a flawed character who pays a psychological price for her precarious situation. She is a judgemental but acute observer of other women and the various ways and means they use to find security and personal fulfillment. Maybe, that’s what George Eliot liked about her.

( )
1 vote msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
It was slow for a good majority of the book, but I sped through the last few chapters. I encourage those that take this on to consider the times this is written in and how singular Lucy is to be as strong and independent, self aware yet un-self conscious, brave yet not reckless. She is truly a heroine for the ages. ( )
1 vote lindseyrivers | Apr 10, 2016 |
"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."

Lucy Snowe, the book's heroine, has good common sense, steely nerves, and no protectors. Not for her the life of a hothouse bloom--she must fend for herself from an early age. After the old woman she works for dies, she is left homeless and without friends or family to appeal to. On the spur of the moment, she uses her small store of money to go to France, and thence, to the little town of Villete. There, she lucks into a position at a ladies' school, headed by the strong-minded, light-moraled Madame Beck.

Bronte made a few choices I didn't like. The book is almost comically prejudiced against "popery" and foreigners in general. The paragraphs upon paragraphs of how beautiful, dainty, feminine, delicate-minded, etc. Polly is seem to last forever. And I'm still not sure why Bronte had a nun haunt the school (I assumed it was to A) remind us of Lucy's repression and B)fufill the need for sensationalism), only to explain away the spectre in a sneering aside.

My problems aside, I enjoyed this book, mostly because I loved Lucy so much. She has a low opinion of herself but very high standards, is often depressed but refuses to be ruled by her darker moments, is thoughtful and introverted. She is, overall, someone I'd very much like to meet. Although she has a keen eye and recognizes her friends' faults, she never turns her incisive wit against them. After her love becomes disillusioned with his own paramour, the frivolous, selfish Ginevra, he denounces her to Lucy. Lucy points out that as mercenary as Ginevra is (as she warned him at the start), she has many good qualities; Lucy doesn't sound like a goody-two-shoes, but rather a girl defending her friend. Bronte writes friendships very well and very realistically, and these relationships, along with Lucy's engaging personality, are the backbone of the novel. ( )
1 vote wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Actually 2 1/2 stars. I listened to the book on tape and the reader was very good, but it still moved too slowly for me. If you're interested in the language and the art of taking three paragraphs to say one simple thing in a beautiful way this might be the book for you. I found the character hard to relate to, though that may be the result of the disparity between social norms for women in those days vs now. I stuck with it to the end because I wanted to see how it turned out, but once was definitely enough for me. ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
"These struggles with the natural character, the strong native bent of the heart, may seem futile and fruitless, but in the end they do good. They tend, however slightly, to give the actions, the conduct, that turn which Reason approves, and which Feeling, perhaps, too often opposes: they certainly make a difference in the general tenor of a life, and enable it to be better regulated, more equable, quieter on the surface; and it is on the surface only the common gaze will fall. As to what lies below, leave that with God. Man, your equal, weak as you, and not fit to be your judge, may be shut out thence: take it to your Maker--show him the secrets of the spirit He gave--ask him how you are to bear the pains He has appointed--kneel in His presence, and pray with faith for light in darkness, for strength in piteous weakness, for patience in extreme need. Certainly at some hour, though perhaps not your hour, the waiting water will stir; in some shape, though perhaps not the shape you dreamed, which your heart loved, and for which it bled, the healing herald will descend. The cripple and the blind, and the dumb, and the possessed, will be led to bathe. Herald, come quickly! Thousands lie round the pool, weeping and despairing, to see it, through slow years, stagnant. Long are 'times' of Heaven: the orbits of angel messengers seem wide to mortal vision; they may en-ring ages: the cycle of one departure and return may clasp unnumbered generations; and dust, kindling to brief suffering life, and, through pain, passing back to dust, may meanwhile perish out of memory again, and yet again. To how many maimed and mourning millions is the first and sole angel visitant, him easterns call Azrael."

Language and philosophy like this is what is to be found in this magnificent novel.

I found myself cussing a lot when reading this book. It got more severe as the story snowballed to it's end. Not in a bad way, you know, but it had me hook, line, and sinker, and my feelings were toyed with and yo-yo-ed about. I didn't want this book to end. You should read it, savor it slowly, translate the French as you go, it's worth it.

Lucy Snowe is maddening. She is her own worst enemy. If there were ever a case for manifesting one's destiny - well, I mean, was she cursed, or did she curse herself? "the negation of severe suffering was the nearest approach to happiness I expected to know." I think there's an argument for both. It occurred to me that for all her haranguing of Ginevra, really they weren't so different. They both craved attention and security and approbation, but in dissimilar ways. At least Ginevra was open about it, while Lucy was utterly incapable of making her needs known. It reminded me that it takes one to know one. Lucy, at one point (though briefly), begins to think of Ginevra as a heroine, and I think I understand why. She would never have traded places with her but I think she must have secretly admired her gumption. Lucy doesn't hate people. She has an utterly astounding font of patience and keen observation and forbearance for people behaving badly, people behaving thoughtlessly, people's innate self-centeredness, she forgives it all. She's no picnic either. She'd like to be that disinterested, unfeeling, untouchable, cold observer of people. But lordy, she's so far from effecting that and she only half knows it. ( )
1 vote libbromus | Jan 30, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (53 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brontë, Charlotteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooper, Helen M.Notessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haapanen-Tallgren, TyyniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosengarten, HerbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, MargaretEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weston, MandyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My godmother lived in a handsome house in the clean and ancient town of Bretton.
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Wikipedia in English


Book description
Friendless and poor, Lucy Snowe arrives in the great Belgian city of Villette, where the sophisticated, devious Madame Beck offers her a post in her girls' school. Though Lucy gradually wins the respect of the spoiled, unruly pupils and her suspicious fellow-teachers, she is adrift from her own culture and finds her solitude desolating. In a powerfully-evoked crisis during the summer vacation, she encounters friends from her childhood, John Bretton and his kindly mother, but her feeling for the charming Dr John have to be curbed when she discovers that his love is bestowed elsewhere. In exploring this crisis and her emergence from it, Charlotte Bronte produced possibly the first, and certainly one of the most important fictional accounts of a woman's emotional breakdown.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140434798, Paperback)

"I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading Villette..." —George Eliot

With neither friends nor family, Lucy Snowe sets sail from England to find employment in a girls’ boarding school in the small town of Villette. There she struggles to retain her self-possession in the face of unruly pupils, an initially suspicious headmaster, and her own complex feelings, first for the school’s English doctor and then for the dictatorial professor, Paul Emmanuel. Charlotte Brontë’s last and most autobiographical novel is a powerfully moving study of isolation and the pain of unrequited love, narrated by a heroine determined to preserve an independent spirit in the face of adverse circumstances.

Villette draws on Brontë’s own unhappy experience as a governess in Brussels
New Introduction examines the novel's social and historical context and argues for its importance as an exploration of imperialism
Includes chronology, suggestions for further reading, and explanatory notes


(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:28 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

With neither friends nor family, Lucy Snowe sets sail from England to find employment in a girls' boarding school in the small town of Villette. There she struggles to retain her self-possession in the face of unruly pupils, an initially suspicious headmaster and her own complex feelings.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 18 descriptions

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18 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434798, 0141199881

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