villetteTitle: Villette

Author: Charlotte Brontë

Date Finished: 06/01/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Literary Classics & The Classics Club

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Wow.  A very very powerful book, I think.
I started reading Villette just before Christmas, about the 20th December, I seem to remember, so it feels like it took me forever.  In reality it only took just over 2 weeks but that time between Christmas NYE etc seems much longer than it really is.  Anyway, I am very proud of myself because yesterday this was the book I read for The Classics Club readathon – since then I went from page 472 to 657 so I was very pleased.  It really helps to start the new term without a massive classic hanging over me – I have lots of January exams and probably won’t have that much reading time any more.

The plot in Villette is pretty unique; at least, I haven’t read anything like it before.  Jane Eyre, of course, is the only book that seems to come close, but even that is significantly different – only the style of Charlotte’s writing and some of the typical situations are similar.  I can’t say I loved this book (I only gave 4/5) but I did really enjoy it.  I wasn’t particularly happy with the ending (don’t worry I won’t do spoilers) and now and again the long-depressive-thoughts bits seemed to drag.  Overall, I enjoyed the plot but it definitely didn’t hook me the way Jane Eyre did…although was it actually meant to…?

The characters (in my opinion) are the strongest asset of Villette.  Ok, many are a little unrealistic and annoying, but I feel like I won’t forget them in a long while.  Particularly Lucy (of course), Madame Beck and Graham Bretton.  I have to say I love the (almost Dickensian) way that characters from earlier in the book manage to pop back up coincidentally.  Unfortunately, there were several times when reading Villette where I got the wrong end of the stick; at one point I genuinely though M. Paul and M. Emanuel were two different people!  This is the main reason it is going straight onto my re-read list – now that I understand what’s actually going on, I think I can enjoy it even more next time.

I LOVED the setting in France and adored the French used throughout (warning: don’t read this if French annoys you!) as it really transports you to the setting.  The prose is, naturally, amazing and surprisingly not too difficult to read, especially when something exciting is happening.  This was the kind of book that you need to sit yourself down with and have a big long read – dipping in and out sparsely doesn’t really work…which is why it was so perfect for the readathon!

Like I have said, I didn’t give Villette 5/5 as I can’t say I loved it, but I do think it could easily become a 5 when I re-read it.  I would definitely recommend it as a classic to read for us all, but not more than Jane Eyre – it is less accessible, I find.  However, a really great adaptation (film or TV) would be great, I reckon.  It’s a shame that it lies in J.E’s shadow – most people who I told I was reading this hadn’t even heard of it.  I now understand what people mean when they say Lucy Snowe is such a “question mark“.  She certainly is!
I hope you all enjoyed the readathon and will participate in the next one too!  They really are a great way of reading with people all around the world and making a good dent in big books, even if you can’t commit to all 24 hours (I managed about 15 awake but most of them weren’t actually spend reading!)

Let me know your thoughts on Villette too – I haven’t come across many posts on it so far.