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Review: "Villette" by Charlotte Brontë

Villette by Charlotte Brontë may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

Villette by Charlotte BronteIf you're expecting something similar to Charlotte Brontë's more famous novel Jane Eyre, you will most likely be disillusioned with Villette--but that's not to say you won't like it. While both novels enjoy similar craftsmanship, the tone could not be more different. Personally, I had a hard time the first time I picked up Villette. However after reading several comments on the C19 forum that promised an enthralling story, some said better than Jane Eyre, I picked it up again.

This time around several favorable aspects of the novel appeared. One is the quality of not just the story but of the storytelling. The book is sonorous--Brontë has a strong and poetic command over the language that is especially apparent in this, her final novel. Another was the beautifully detailed inner turmoil of our protagonist, Lucy Snowe. Some say much of the inspiration for Villette was taken from Brontë's own life, from the time she spent in Belgium teaching English. This would make sense, as Lucy Snowe's thoughts seem too minutely described to be drawn purely from imagination.

In spite of all the intricate details, Lucy Snowe is a most ambiguous and intriguing narrator. Over a third of the story she keeps a startling secret from the reader, and then casually mentions it as if it were a simple side note. I found myself having dreams of reading Villette and finding more surprising plot twists and turns. I will definitely put this one the "to re-read" shelf and look forward to new odd experiences Lucy Snowe will inflict next time.

A note on the text--there is a lot of French dialog. So if you don't know any French, you will be lost. If you know a tiny bit of French, you will do okay, but you will wish you had kept up better with your foreign language skills.


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