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Villette Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 1, 2015
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From the Back Cover
A deluxe Harper Perennial Legacy Edition, with an introduction from Mallory Ortberg, New York Times best-selling author of Texts from Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte’s final and most autobiographical novel—even more critically acclaimed than Jane Eyre during its time—is a brilliant story of repressed passion and unrequited love in the fictional French town of Villette
Lucy Snowe is a young woman alone in the world after a terrible event of which she never speaks. With no home, no family, and no prospects, she sets out on her own to the small French town of Villette, where she finds work as a governess at a boarding school for girls. When a handsome doctor from her past appears in Villette, Lucy believes she may at last be free of loneliness—if her rigorous self-control doesn’t conceal her true feelings.
Based on Charlotte Bronte’s own experiences at a boarding school in Belgium, Villette is an intense psychological portrait of its heroine, a woman who so strenuously tries to hide her passions that she cannot help but reveal them.
About the Author
Charlotte Brontë, born in 1816, was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters, and one of the nineteenth century's greatest novelists. She is the author of Villette, The Professor, several collections of poetry, and Jane Eyre, one of English literature's most beloved classics. She died in 1855.
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However, large portions of the book are in French with no English translation given. This really bogged me down as a reader because I never learned French and had to rely on the Google Translate app (it uses your smartphone camera to translate text in real time, so useful) and my limited knowledge of French and Italian words/grammar to understand what was going on. I really don't understand why they didn't include the English translations for the French conversations in footnotes. Even endnotes would have been helpful. I was quite disappointed at that. If I had known about the lack of English translations, I wouldn't have bought this edition. I'm not going to return the book since I did like it, but I wanted to warn you.
Lucy Snowe, Villette's first person narrator, is beyond "reserved"; one suspects that she not only wishes to melt into the wallpaper but BE the wallpaper; however, circumstances goad her to action. And because the underlying structure of the plot is comic, no matter how improbable Lucy's "happy ideas" are, they come to fruition. Lucy has a sharp eye always on the lookout for "interesting" characters and situations. For example, the Blanche Ingram character that Jane Eyre rails against emerges as the pretty and vacuous Ginevra Fanshawe who attaches herself to Lucy, or is "gummed" to her waist as Lucy puts it. (Lucy places pins strategically to mitigate the annoyance.) And unlike Blanche, Ginevra has remarkable staying power, occupying all three volumes of the novel. But as soon as characters lapse into conventional novelistic resolutions (marriage, death, or other demise) they lose Lucy's interest and drop out of the narrative.
Will you like this book? If you liked Northern Exposure or Boston Legal for its quirky characters . . . maybe. If you don't mind being teased and chided for your expectations, or disappointed in your anticipation . . . perhaps. If you have the patience for Lucy's generally crabbed style awaiting some of the most hilarious and on point descriptions in the English language . . . most probably.
One further caution, if your French is either non-existent or very spotty, you should seek out an edition (like the Oxford World Classics) with notes that translate the frequent French passages. The Kindle HarperCollins-Perennial does not.