Villette is a special book. I loved Jane Eyre and hoped and expected a similar kind of book in Villette. That was wrong. The narrator in Jane Eyre is openhearted, whereas Lucy Snowe, the narrator and heroine in Villette, is very introvert and holds back her thoughts and feelings from the reader. This annoyed me at first, until the point I realized that Charlotte Brontë did this on purpose. Being reticent is pro Lucy’s main trait. She doesn’t tell us what she’s feeling, neither does she tell any of her friends and acquaintances. She remained a mystery for hundreds of pages, and all of her closer connections have different impressions of her. She giggles about that, but doesn’t reveal herself - neither to us, nor to the people around her.
The book is slowly moving (as many of the books written in that time). There were points at which I thought ‘Is this going to get somewhere anyway? When is Lucy finally going to fall in love with Dr. Bretton, as promised at the backside of the book? Then, I realized that she wasn’t ever going to write it down – that is not her style. One has to read between the lines to get close to Lucy.
She must have suffered so much, but she won’t tell us about her pain. She left England in her early twenties, leaving back no one, to go to Villette, the capital of Labassacour (a fictive, French-speaking country based on Belgium), where no one is waiting for her. She starts working as a teacher in a girl’s school. But because she is so introvert, she won’t have many contacts. She accepts the presence of Ginevra (a spoiled English girl she met on the ferry) even if she doesn’t like her. She falls in love, yet the object of her love would never recognize her as a potential wife – and falls in love with another girl, a girl Lucy loves dearly. A tragic love triangle, but no one except for Lucy will ever know there was one. And then, the second man she loves, and loves deeper even, is taken away from her by a trio of people, who seem to want to destroy her last chance of happiness.
But – and this is a very important ‘but’ - her reticence fades, maybe even disappears, from chapter 38 on. Lucys heartache grows so big that she cannot longer keep her feelings to herself. She drew me into her pain completely. I felt her grief, her sorrow. The last four chapters are the most tragic, yet most beautiful and gripping pages of the book, and the main reason it gets five stars from me.
Oh, dear Lucy, I just hope you found happiness, eventually.