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Villette- Charlotte Brontë



Posted August 12, 2016 by

Villette – Charlotte Brontë – 1853

Reviewed by: Alex 

This is one of the most haunting books I have ever read. It was incredibly difficult to get through, because the heroine is simply so un-heroic. She is intensely neurotic, desperate, masochistic. And that is what makes her stick in my mind so well. This book rings painfully true. I believe Charlotte Brontë; I believe that this is what it is like to be a girl with nothing lovely about her, in the nineteenth century. This is the book anyone who denies the need for feminism needs to read; her place in the world as a middle class woman without charm has driven her to the edge- and perhaps over. The whole book reads like a fever dream, from the narrator’s recounts of conversations in languages she couldn’t understand, to the world’s ultimate uncaring treatment of her.

I hated reading this book, but I’ll keep it on my bookshelf forever.


Reviewed by: Anna van Gelderen        Date: 27 July 2001

Everybody knows and loves Jane Eyre, but hardly anybody has ever heard of Charlotte Brontë’s later novel, Villette. Is this because Villette simply does not have the literary quality of Jane Eyre? Most certainly not. Could it be because Villette is not as romantic? Now, there you have a point. Villette is darker, more realistic. It is also much more personal and autobiographic than Jane Eyre and ultimately a more powerful novel. Charlotte Brontë drew on her own experiences as a teacher at a private boarding school for girls in Brussels. There she fell passionately in love with one of her fellow teachers – a married man, so the whole affair was doomed from the beginning.

In Villette Charlotte Brontë created an alter ego, Lucy Snowe, who teaches at a similar school. She looks mousy (always wearing grey for instance) but hides an inner life of violent emotions and passions, for which the very restricted school environment offers no proper outlet. There is one person, however – a fellow teacher – who seems to recognize Lucy for what she really is. Now, will this be the beginning finally of happiness or of something else?

Villette is a very convincing and moving novel about the inner landscape of a Victorian woman whose life it seems was destined to be spent in constantly repressing her feelings and struggling against isolation. Deserves a wide audience.

ReadLit Team


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