Monday, March 21, 2011

Villette Readalong -- Finished

Finally, I have finished Villette.  I know, it's a readalong, but I had some real momentum while reading it last week, and bloggers, I just couldn't help myself -- I finished the rest of the book.  The story really picked up for me and I had to keep going.  However, when it came time to actually put some thoughts down, I am kind of at a loss.

Without giving too much away, finally, the entire Lucy/Graham/Polly love triangle was resolved, pretty calmly.  Polly turned out to be a pretty good egg after all; Ginevra was as obnoxious as ever -- one of my commenters last week wrote that she wanted to push her off a cliff, which is about right.  Originally I just wanted to smack her, but then she got worse.

And some other characters who seemed pretty interesting and fairly benign earlier in the book got more complicated, and in some cases, more treacherous.  I won't say which ones in case anyone is still reading it, but some of them really infuriated me.  I know this sounds really vague but a lot happens in the last quarter or so of the book, and I got hooked on it and finished it all up in a couple of days.  I don't know if it's because the story got much better or if I was just unable to drag it out any longer.

After spending so much time on this book I'm at a loss, and I just can't come up with clever and insightful comments about this book.  After some slow spots, I did end up liking it (though I wasn't thrilled with the ending).  While it's not nearly as exciting as Jane Eyre, it has some great character development.  I'm not sure why some people consider it Charlotte Bronte's finest book. I suppose as her final work, it's her most mature.  My copy (Modern Library) has an introduction by A.S. Byatt and some Frenchwoman that probably has all kinds of insights and background which I was saving for the end, but it's 50 pages long, and I am too tired of looking at this book to open it again.  I'm glad I finally got around to reading it, but I'm in no hurry to pick up her other books Shirley (654 pages!) and The Professor (a mere 300).

Thanks again for Wallace at Unputdownables for organizing this.  I did enjoy participating in the Readathon, since it motivated me to keep going.  I apologize for cutting my participation short, but maybe two months was just too long for my short attention span.


  1. I think to me, the worst part of this book was the fact that Charlotte herself comes off as a really nasty person. It's considered a masterpiece, I've heard, because it's so revealing of the author, but frankly, if I was the author I'm not sure I'd be flattered by such a statement.

  2. I think Villette is superbly written, but what makes it fall flat is that it lacks the likeable and identifiable heroine of Jane Eyre, and the satisfying romance of Jane and Rochester. I do think it a better written and characterised novel than Jane Eyre; it's psychological and emotionally deep in a way that was unheard of at the time. It's also a profoundly sad book, which again, means it is not a feel good or 'enjoyable' read even though it is so brilliantly, in my opinion, written.

    The end made me cry so much! Did you cry!? I sat there a bit stunned and just cried and cried. I didn't expect it at all. In fact I rushed next door to my friend (I was at university, in halls at the time) who was also reading it for the same course and cried 'What just happened?!' and we were both distraught together.

  3. I think your use of the word "mature" to describe the novel is a good one. And perhaps the most engaging and memorable novels are not the most maturely-written ones. I too got caught up in the end and was glad to have read it but I'm not sure if I would ever re-read it. Congratulations on finally finishing though!

  4. Amanda -- do you mean Lucy or Charlotte herself?

    Bookssnob -- I think the pacing is better in Jane Eyre as well, and I don't think the gothic element (i.e, the nun's ghost) was as believable as the weirdness in Jane Eyre. It seemed more contrived. But the ending was pretty jaw-dropping. It's supposed to be ambiguous but I'm pretty sure I know what the result was. It really p*&&^% me off.

  5. I'd never even heard of Villette, but now I have to go check it out as you've got me all curious.

  6. Kristen -- I'm really glad it got better at the end, but it still isn't as good as Jane Eyre. It's still one of my all-time favorites.

    Margaret -- it's not my favorite classic work but I'm glad I read more Charlotte Bronte. It's still better than Wuthering Heights, but not as good as Jane Eyre or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (which is actually Anne Bronte, but I tend to lump them all together).

  7. Karen, loved your honest post! Like you, I don't think I'll want to look at another one of her books for quite some time. I still need to read a few more chapters to finish up, but I can already tell that I'm not going to like the end if its going to go the way I'm thinking it will. I still can't believe how long it took for me to become interested in the story - its nearing the end that I actually found myself engaging more with the character of Lucy. Oh well, must finish it tonight. By the by, I had no idea that this was considered her finest work. Hmmm. Who would have thought? Oh and another thing, what is the deal with the trinity trying to keep M. Paul and Lucy apart - where did that come from? All because of money? Crazy!!!

  8. I still haven't even cracked my copy. :( At this point, it's just going to have to wait until summer. I really related to your "too long for my short attention span" comment. If I spread a book out too long, it is really hard for me to remember details and then I get to not caring so much. Thanks for the review. I do still want to read it eventually.