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Villette (Modern Library Torchbearers) Paperback – October 9, 2001
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"The Lost Girls of Devon" by Barbara O'Neal
From the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids comes a story of four generations of women grappling with family betrayals and long-buried secrets. | Learn more
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"Villette! Villette! Have you read it?" exclaimed George Eliot when Charlotte Brontë's final novel appeared in 1853. "It is a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre. There is something almost preternatural in its power."
Arguably Brontë's most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette,flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new file 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 freindship with a wordly 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.
"Villette is an amazing book," observed novelist Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. "Written before psychoanalysis came into being, Villette is nevertheless a psychoanalytic work—a psychosexual study of its heroine, Lucy Snowe. Written before the philosophy of existentialism was formulated, the novel's view of the world can only be described as existential. . . . Today it is read and discussed more intensely than Charlotte Brontë's other novels, and many critics now beleive it to be a true master-piece, a work of genius that more than fulfilled the promise of Jane Eyre." Indeed, Virginia Woolf judged Villette to be Brontë's "finest novel."
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Paperback : 624 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0375758508
- ISBN-10 : 9780375758508
- Product Dimensions : 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Modern Library; New edition (October 9, 2001)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 037575850X
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,368,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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"Villette" is an amazing piece of literature, at times it reads like magical and enchanting poetry, and at other times it reads exactly like a diary, uncensored, but like all great literature it reads with a haunting honesty that borders on the sublime.
Lucy Snowe, like Ms. Bronte's Jane Eyre, is a character whose appeal and inquisitiveness sets the stage for an analytic and intrusive insight into a society where an ambitious and smart woman's place in the workforce is still an unacceptable and alien concept, unless the woman's ambition is limited to being a servant, a governess, or a teacher.
"Villette" is the last of Charlotte Bronte's novels and it goes places and poses questions about religion, morals, corruption,and ambition that are still being heatedly debated one hundred and seventy years later.
This is a very long novel and it is the type of book that should be read carefully and patiently, and more than once. It has so much to offer and it simply overflows with brilliance and reawakens many of our dreams and desires that we might have long ago forgotten but we should never have buried.
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.
I read later that Bronte patterned the book's characters on people well known to her, though I still wonder if the author's personality mirrored Lucie Snowe's as well.
Unless you like extremely dense prose and not a lot of plot, don't bother. And, by the way, get a different version with footnotes. Half the dialogue is in French and I do not speak the language!
Top reviews from other countries
Lucy Snowe is a well named, for she hides her extraordinary passions beneath a cool exterior. Her nature is contrary, elusive and contradictory, puzzling even to those closest to her: even we, her readers, are but qualified confidantes, often left in the dark by her reticence. Whilst doing what she must to make her way in the world, Lucy somehow remains uncompromising, aloof and self-sufficient, earning respect even from those she most confounds. She is perhaps the most intriguing female character I've ever read about.
Just as in "Jane Eyre", Charlotte leans shamelessly on coincidence to work her plot, but a little cunning telegraphy sweetens the pill, providing this reader with a satisfying oh-I-see! moment. Just as in "Jane Eyre", different kinds of potential suitors for our narrator are juxtaposed and contrasted; and different styles of womanhood are presented, demonstrating what Lucy is not. But the arc of this book is less obvious than in "Jane Eyre": we are very far along before we even understand what kind of story this is (and the saucy intrusion of classic gothic elements keeps us guessing).
Speaking of technique, Charlotte's prose is superbly controlled, whether lofty and fanciful or sharp and deft, as here:
"...it was not my godmother's habit to make a bustle, and she preferred all sentimental demonstrations in bas-relief."
It's also frequently a novel of high humour, through Lucy's dry observations. Here we catch her in catty mood:
"[I was] paired with Ginevra Fanshawe, bearing on my arm the dear pressure of that angel's not unsubstantial limb - (she continued in excellent case, and I can assure the reader it was no trifling business to bear the burden of her loveliness; many a time in the course of that warm day I wished to goodness there had been less of the charming commodity)..."
I could have done without swathes of dialogue conducted in French, but I suppose Charlotte was not to know that half-educated barbarians like me might paw at her books a century later!
"Villette" is an impressive achievement, beautifully constructed, relentless in its focus, concerned with the affections and interior lives of complex and atypical people, and with much to say about both religious disagreement and transcending those disagreements. It insists on its own careful, measured pace, even as it treads through the most surprising situations and revelations, and sure enough it arrives punctually at its intended, yet long unsuspected, destination. Excellent stuff.
(Incidentally, the Gutenberg/Kindle freebie edition has lots of typos, mainly wayward punctuation; but I would be fascinated to observe "Madame Beck's fist classe"!)
Lucy, a young woman doomed to a grim and dismal life of poverty in England, risks it all by seeking her fortune in France even without knowledge of the language. Her hard work and integrity is rewarded in the end. With little hope of finding love in her situation, her struggles lead her to the most loyal of friendships. It is a timeless heart-warming story with the deepest and most detailed character study. A pleasure to read. THE ISLAND GIRL
The main character in this is Lucy Snowe who eventually travels to the Continent to teach, as did Charlotte. Why this novel works and is so masterful is due to the deftness of touch that Charlotte brings to it. The narrator, Lucy does not come out and tell you everything at once, being a bit secretive. Due to this there is a certain playfulness to the whole tale and Charlotte plays to some extent with her reading audience. To be able to do such a thing and pull it off shows how much she had advanced in her writing skills, and that she had a more positive and commanding attitude to writing.
I do not want to go into the story here in case I end up giving away some spoilers but if you love reading then you must read this book. I personally much prefer this to Jane Eyre, and I know that a lot of others do too; this is Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece.