my Goodreads account, I finished Villette on July 7.... aaand I never reviewed it until now. Can you say oops? Suffice it to say that this review won't be terribly detailed but at least I'm not rambling on like I sometimes do. Which is fine, because I was kind of meh about it. But it does mark the tenth book I've finished for my Classics Club list, so that's pretty awesome!
Villette is one of those books that I've been meaning to read for years, ever since half of my Victorian literature class read it (the rest of us read Jane Eyre). For some reason, I had it in my head that when Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre, it was based on her own early life but that her publisher made her tone it down (AKA her actual childhood was worse), which I still think might be true. I also thought that Villette was essentially a more accurate story of her life and therefore darker than Jane Eyre, which is most definitely not the case, so I'll preface this by saying that I went in with false expectations (and I still can't figure out where said expectations came from).
So, young Lucy Snowe spends a lot of time with her godmother and her godmother's son, and also this little girl who stays with them for a bit. Then they lose touch and her family mysteriously dies so she has to go into service and moves to Villete, a city in a fictional, French-speaking, and apparently Belgium-like country, where she starts teaching in a school. There is a very low level of drama and then she makes friends with the doctor, who she eventually (but nobody knows when) realized is someone that she once knew from England. She's also very bossy and falls in love. It is extremely difficult to summarize this book without giving away "plot twists" that are only twists because Lucy keeps secrets from the reader.
I think that the reason I didn't care for this book is because of how much I disliked Lucy. She keeps secrets from the reader and I don't understand why. It seems like a cheap narrative trick to make the book seem exciting and suspenseful when really Lucy is just a bitch. And not just to the reader! She's mean to everybody she knows except for the monied people she wants to be her friends and a man who is a total dick to her. I think the reason that I put off reviewing this for so long is because I had such trouble getting around my feelings about Lucy to review the book itself. She's just so obnoxious!
The other aspect of this book that I didn't really like is how all of the characters come together so neatly and are so stupid that they don't even realize it. Seriously, it's like if I held a dinner party tonight here in Austin with a bunch of random people who wouldn't otherwise know each other and then everybody loses touch until we all run into each other in a bar in Canada ten years from now. Life doesn't work like that. Sure, yesterday I encountered somebody in the grocery store here who also graduate from the Rutgers School of Social Work in New Jersey but I never actually met her before and that's about the biggest such coincidence life is likely to throw at you, and that would have been even less likely back in the day. Looking back at this paragraph, I am surprised at how much angst this stirred up in me.
So I was underwhelmed by Villette and have a hard time viewing it in its entirety. I did kind of like the ending (avoiding spoilers), which is not so much because I hated Lucy but because I liked the twist on your classic Victorian happy ending (y'all know how much I like unhappy endings) but that didn't make up for how much I hated Lucy. I know a lot of people like this book even more than Jane Eyre and I just don't get it because Jane make me want to hug her and Lucy gets all the slaps.