This Christmas I read 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte enjoyed with many a mince pie, and the occasional Sherry, Gin & Tonic, or Baileys whilst snuggled up on the sofa.
Summary: The novel follows the life and psychology of Lucy Snowe, an observant and passive orphan. She has little sense of belonging and we follow her from England, when living with her godmother, to the French town of Villette. Here she teaches at a boarding school where she encounters teachers and pupils who offer interesting characters whose study provides a large basis of the novel itself. Lucy experiences loneliness and isolation, love, heartbreak, adventure, dissatisfaction, and a desire for independence. The novel offers an intimate acquaintance with her psychology and leaves us with an ambiguous ending.
I read Jane Eyre and loved it; I liked this book too and in several ways it is similar.
The disappointment I felt is also similar: it is predominantly the plot line which proves unsatisfactory, everything is a little too coincidental and a little too unlikely. However, if one can ignore these contrived circumstances our focus shifts onto the language used to express the feelings in these novels.
In this aspect, I love Charlotte Bronte and her exploration into the depth of her characters. Lucy Snowe is full of contradictions which is what makes her so realistic; she is reserved and self-controlled yet experiences extremes of emotion that lead to her physical degeneration.
We are made aware of the patriarchal constructs that determine her actions or provide the voice of retribution.
We recognise the conflicts that Lucy faces with regards to gender roles in education, in cultural elements, and between Protestantism and Catholicism.
If you were left wanting more after Jane Eyre I recommend having a read of Villette. It is an interesting study of character, although quite a slow read due to its very minimal plot.