Thursday, November 6, 2014
Operation Read Your Shelves: Villette
It's time for the next book review in the Operation Read Your Shelves series! It's been awesome having this little project pushing me to read. I love love love reading, but making it a priority is hard.
I just finished this book. I actually contemplated writing the review without entirely finishing it because I wanted this post to go live on Monday. But, I soon realized it was quite impossible to judge Villette without having completed it. Villette could have ended one of many ways, affecting whether or not I loved it. And...I loved it. It kept me guessing the whole way through! I was entirely unprepared for a few of the plot twists, including the ending. That's a nod to Bronte's skill, though, because while I wasn't expecting the story's outcome, I was surprisingly ready for it and it was surprisingly perfect.
To explain the plot just a little: Villette is narrated by the main character, Lucy Snowe, and is about her struggle for independence out of an orphaned childhood and the life she builds amongst strangers in a new country. I would say the core of the story is her desire to belong somewhere and be loved by someone. She consistently finds herself watching everyone else from the outskirts of life and can't seem to make anyone realize how much she wants to be invited in.
Lucy is a refreshing female character who feels the need for love in a very relatable way... Many heroines are either so pious they shame you for feeling anything or they're so dramatic about love, it becomes ridiculous. Lucy Snowe was a heroine I connected with on multiple levels. She's probably one of the most complex characters I've ever read. While she's sensitive, she's also smart, humorous and self-reliant. At several points in the story, she experiences difficult emotional struggles and noted moments of growth.
To give you a taste of the feel of the story, it predominantly takes place in a French town. French is spoken throughout the book, so if you didn't at least take high school French, you might feel a little lost without a dictionary (nothing absolutely critical is spoken in a foreign language, though). There is interesting attention paid to the religious tension between Protestants and Catholics during that time. And, there is a gothic feel due to the spiritual undertones and a haunting (ooooo) similar to that in Jane Eyre.
Of course, being written by Charlotte Bronte, you're probably wondering how Villette compares to Jane Eyre. To be clear, I love Jane Eyre. I've read it multiple times, and it's one of my favorites. But, I enjoyed Villette even more. This was Bronte's last novel and the greater amount of writing experience gained at this point in her life is evident in the intensely rich descriptive passages and dynamic supporting characters. The settings and scenes are more varied and colorful, as well. In my opinion, Lucy simply has more heart and openness than Jane.
I'll say no more. Obviously, I'm in favor of this classic and would encourage you to pick it up and discern for yourself how good a read it is. There's more I would like to say about the love story, but I'd be flirting with spoilers if I did that. :) Let me know in the comments if you've read it and enjoyed the love story as much as I did. Villette is now counted among my favorite books. I hope you get the chance to enjoy it some day.
Have a beautiful Thursday!