Book Review: Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Plot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette,flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.
One of the best thing about this book is the main character and its secondary characters. The main character, Lucy Snowe, is a heroine worth rooting for. She’s very wise for her young age and has a resilient, pious, and bold spirit. Collectively, both the main characters and the secondary characters symbolize duality, the good and the bad in people and life. I found it clever how the author used two of the secondary characters to represent each side of duality.
Other aspects of the book that I enjoyed were the romance and the Gothic elements. Of the two, the romance is what impressed me the most. It was surprising because I expected the protagonist to fall for one character, but she ended up falling for someone else. Also, it was refreshing how the author made some of the secondary characters fall in love with each other. It was a good way to develop them and show the values of the world around Lucy. Furthermore, it was nice how the romance that Lucy experiences was shown with sweet gestures and words rather than public displays of affection.
When it comes to the Gothic element, it was very interesting. Not only does it symbolize the duality mentioned earlier, but it also symbolizes Lucy’s and another character’s inner turmoil. It provided a creative character arc for Lucy.
In spite of the book’s amazing features, there were some flaws that kept me from really enjoying it. The biggest flaw was the pacing of the story. It was so slow that I almost stopped reading this book and caring about Lucy! There were moments I was wishing for something bad or shocking to happen so the story would speed up. I also wished that Lucy would stop rambling with her thoughts.
Another thing that made reading the book frustrating was the French. I don’t speak it, nor do I have a French dictionary. Sometimes, I could figure out what one character was saying. Most of the time, I felt confused and that I was missing out on something important. Maybe it is because I read a Project Gutenberg version, but I felt that Lucy should have translated what was being said.
Last but not least, the ending left me a little disappointed. Instead of being straightforward and honest, it is ambiguous. It felt like the author got tired of writing and forgot about the main character. Although she explains the futures of the other characters fine, she could have done a better job with Lucy and her love interest.
Overall, the book was almost as good as Jane Eyre. If you liked that book, feel free to give Villette a try.