Customer Reviews: Villette
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on June 4, 2005
It was her last completed book, always in the shadow of Jane Eyre. It was insightful, irreverent, angry, tragic, funny, bizarre, gothic and wonderfully honest. At the time, the novel was harshly criticized by men, even feminist men like George Eliot's lover. But George Eliot herself and Virginia Wolf believed it to be her best work.

How unusual first of all to have a heroine like Lucy Snowe, not of noble blood, not rich, not charming, not even good-looking as women (esp in the Victorian period) were expected to be. Like the other characters, she is flawed, contradictory and multi-faceted in a way one rarely sees in literature but continually witnesses in real life. Yet she is decidedly brilliant, original and imaginative like no other. Unconventional and delightfully subversive!

In many ways, this is a truly modern novel to this day. I've never read a novel that so honestly and unflinchingly captures the plight of a woman-artist making her own way in the world despite the obstacles thrown in her path.
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VINE VOICEon December 23, 2010
One of the advantages of having the Kindle is that you can have access to all this amazing classical literature that you'd never buy. Villette by Charlotte Bronte is one of those. There are two Kindle free books of Villette, both are identical, so it doesn't matter which one you download.

The book's plot is quite interesting: You follow Lucy Snowe though her teens into her early 20s. She's not a typical heroine: she's a plain looking, average woman - sort of the anti-Austen stereotype. Lucy doesn't even have self esteem, but manages to flee England and moves to the European mainland.

Being my first Bronte novel, it's wildly delicious. The characters are flawed, there's tragedy and particularly wonderful moments. It does make you wonder how much of the book is autobiographical, and you feel a sense of loss because the Brontes were taken from us too soon before they could complete more works. You're sucked into the isolation of Lucy and in a way, that's more interesting than the plot.

Other and more talented reviewers can give you a better review of Villette (Signet Classics) than I can. But this book is a worthy download, and will bring you into a unique literary world and make you adore the creativity of the Brontes.
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on April 4, 2006
I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates raw human emotion with exceptional imagery to guide the reader through the thoughtful text. After reading Jane Eyre, I felt compelled to explore other Bronte works and found this to be the true masterpiece. Although at times not as accessible as Eyre, Villette is more sincere. There are no gothic mysteries to cloud the writing, instead just a very real account of what seems to be an autobiography of Bronte's life.

The first time I read this it seemed a bit difficult to get through, but I guarantee you will not be disappointed. It is very brooding, with nothing to hide the main character's insecurity that very much parallels that of Charlotte Bronte. There is a magic in this book that is not describable, and ranks at the top of my list of favorites!
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on October 8, 1999
its rather hurried and ambigious ending, which leaves the reader having to form his/her own version of the ending ie. whether a happy or sad one. (Read the Signet Classic, the afterword by Jerome Beaty explains that Charlotte Bronte actually wanted a somewhat sad ending to the story, but her father wanted it to be a happy one, so Bronte compromised by leaving the ending 'hanging' so that the readers can decide for themselves how the story ends.)
Apart from the above dissapointment, this is a marvelous classic and beautifully written, a great and indepth analysis of the workings of the human heart and mind. I loved it better than Jane Eyre (except for the ending: Jane Eyre's is more complete and satisfying). You'll love the character of M.Paul - despite his eccentric behaviour, he's really a darling with a heart of gold, which Lucy Snowe soon discovers!
I recommend that you buy the Signet Classic version which has the English translation to the over 400 French phrases found in the book.
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on July 5, 2005
As far as I'm concerned, Virginia Woolf had it right. This is Charlotte Bronte's best work, even if it isn't nearly as well known as _Jane Eyre_. I re-read it every few years; it's one of my favorites. It's a sort of coming-of-age story written from the perspective of a young woman who has nothing, not even a smidgeon of self-esteem, but who manages to build a life for herself where she has friends and meaningful work. I suppose that sounds a little dull, but Bronte is such an acute observor of people that every character is three-dimensional. The main character, Lucy, changes throughout the book, and her topics of discussion, her word choices, even her sentence structure slowly evolve with her, illustrating her growth. It's unsentimental and unromanticized, but I do like all the characters in it, even with all their flaws.
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on August 8, 2005
After reading Jane Eyre I searched for another of Charlotte Bronte's novels. Villette is just as much worth reading as Eyre.

The story follows a woman, Lucy Snowe, from England to France, where she becomes a teacher at a French school for girls. Strange circumstances bring back old friends from the past, and new friends show her that she is, in fact, worthy of love.

Although the prose is beautiful, this novel is full of a sort of dark and ominous feeling that is so affecting that it is almost impossible to take your eyes off the page.

This book is really worth reading.
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on January 19, 2008
I now completely understand George Eliot's statement about Villette (Signet Classics): "I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading 'Villette' ... There is something preternatural about its power." I have just read this book for the first time and finished it a few days ago, yet I could not immediately write a review as I was still so submerged in the language, the story, and the characters, that I wanted to stay with them for a little while longer before I withdrew.

Virginia Woolf called Villette (Signet Classics) Brontë's finest novel, and though this is the first of hers that I have read, it was indeed a true masterpiece. The intricate character descriptions were vivid and priceless, gentle even in their thoroughness, which cannot but seem harsh at times. There was a quiet and restrained passion to this novel and to Lucy Snowe which I found powerful and compelling. Brontë's personifications were numerous - Death, Reason, Feeling, Hope, and her soul to name a few - and wonderfully imaginative and descriptive. Interesting to note were the comments and undertones disparaging Catholicism and the Catholic Church, and also the emphasis on the superiority of England, the English, and Englishwomen to their "continental" counterparts.

I must admit that though I was somewhat engaged at the beginning, I became subsequently less so. If this occurs with you also, please do not let it deter you, do not put the book away - I read the last 300 pages in one sitting. I found this novel very moving and in this last sitting experienced the range of human emotions - sorrow, as I despaired that Lucy would ever find happiness in her life; joy and anticipation for each interaction between M. Paul and Lucy (the scene in the evening when M. Paul sits at the table beside her and takes offense to her making room for him had me laughing out loud); surprise, despair, anger, and more - I do not want to give specifics on occurrences in the novel which I myself would not have wished to know before I read it.

At the beginning of her stay in Villette I found Lucy Snowe too placid and weak, but my opinion was reformed and though, as I said before, there is a quietness and restraint to her, there is also an underlying passion which is full and lively and which no one could possibly overlook. I loved Paul Emmanuel and even now, writing about him for this review, I cannot help but smile at my memory of him. He sees Lucy as others do not and I truly relished every clash - and increasing moments of accord - between them. Lucy says to herself on the subject of M. Paul: "You are well habituated to be passed by as a shadow in Life's sunshine: it is a new thing to see one testily lifting his hand to screen his eyes, because you tease him with an obtrusive ray" (p. 371).

READ THIS BOOK!! I borrowed it from the library and the day after finishing it I ordered a copy, as I already feel a need to reread it and immerse myself in Villette (Signet Classics) once more.

SUMMARY (from the Penguin Classics back cover):
"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, a headmistress who spies on her staff, and her own complex feelings - first for the school's English doctor and then for the dictatorial professor Paul Emmanuel. Drawing on her own deeply unhappy experiences as a teacher in Brussels, 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."
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on May 14, 2006
Villette - astonishing! Difficult to decide whether this is a book to love or loathe; no middle ground seems possible. Lucy Snowe is a compelling, engaging narrator; her sharp sarcasm pricks holes in the most inflated personalities and makes us laugh at life's absurdities. But at the same time, Bronte's level-headed narrator is caught in a morass of despair and loneliness from which she never completely escapes. The storyline becomes enmeshed in a dark, surreal web, unsettling and discouraging; this reviewer almost gave up on the book halfway through. Lucy Snowe, like Jane Eyre, can find beauty in unlikely places; but unlike her earlier counterpart, it seems that happiness, for Lucy at least, is too good to be real.

Engaging, poetic, thought-provoking, skilfully created, deeply unsettling and profoundly dark. A mysterious, tragic narrative.
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VINE VOICEon December 9, 2001
What irks me about the other reader reviews is that so many of them seem to cast Lucy Snow's soul in modern terms in the hopes of convincing the readers of the reviews that the book is accessible to them.
I take the opposite tack. It is WE who have something to learn from the Victorians and their masterworks, rather than (if time could be reversed) the other way around. Lucy Snow is a spiritual hero, a concept seemingly lost in our modern age, to judge by most of the reviews anyway. The very name "Lucy" signifies a spiritual light along with a sexual purity signified by "Snow." that all of us in the modern age would do well to ponder and reasses our own souls thereby. I realize, of course, that the term "soul" is dreadfully outdated for many readers. But read and learn that there is such a beautiful thing, not to be psychoanalyzed to dissolution. Read, for example:
"No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure. Happpiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven. She is a divive dew which the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth blooms and golden fruitage of Paradise."
Through all of Lucy's companionless travails through unrequited and partially requited love, we feel the own deep personal love and light shining from her deep sensitive soul. It reminds me of nothing so much as the poetry of Emily Dickinson...In fact, I would go so far to say that those without an appreciation of great poetry will gain little from reading this poetic novel. - Unrequited love builds character and, paradoxically, allows that love to become spiritual (There really is such a thing!) NOT "sublimated."
So, if you can relate to Emily Dickinson, to Yeats when he tells us that if his lifelong love for Maud Gonne had been requited he might have "thrown poor words away and been content to live." or to Emily Dickinson's "Not one of all the purple host who took the flag to-day can tell the definition so clear, of victory, as he, defeated, dying, on whose forbidden ear the distant strains of triumph break, agonized and clear." then pick up this book and follow Lucy through her travails. If you're looking for an easy reading page turner, forget it.
Lucy Snow is a chacter to be admired and emulated, not looked down upon in presumptuous, self-righteous pity.
"For those that have ears, let them hear."
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VINE VOICEon March 24, 2007
Another semi-autobiographical tale from Charlotte Bronte, based upon her time spent teaching in Belgium. This is not a novel of page turning excitement, but a lovely tale of one woman's battle to maintain her independence.

It's very interesting how the author brings characters in and out of her tale, and ties them all together in the end. Along with that, Bronte's gorgeous prose and all those large words that make you want to go running for the dictionary.

A lovely tale, one to savour like a fine red wine or chocolate, and an old classic worth rediscovering (or to discover for the first time). If you enjoyed Jane Eyre this is worth checking out.
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