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81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's criminal!
I do not in any way mean to say that this book is bad; indeed, I mean the very opposite. It is criminal that "Villette" is not widely recognised as Charlotte Brontė's tour de force. Overshadowed by the tremendous success of "Jane Eyre" - which is, in itself, a wonderful novel - "Villette" has been largely ignored. Yet, in my opinion, it is...
Published on 13 April 2001

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going
I read Jane Eyre many years ago and remember really enjoying it. So I thought I would give Villette a go. And to be honest, I was a little disappointed by this one. There is no doubt that this is a beautifully written book, and that Bronte's descriptive powers are sometimes quite extraordinary. I also really enjoyed the characters and some of the interplay between them,...
Published on 14 May 2011 by M. E. Walker


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I preferred Jane Eyre, 26 Feb. 2008
I have just finished reading Charlotte Bronte's Villette after loving Jane Eyre. I must say I did prefer Jane Eyre, but thats not to say this book is bad. My criticism of Villette is it is sometimes monotonously slow. Brontes description is beautiful, however sometimes the narrative is too long winded. If you like fast paced books, I have to say this is not for you. Read this book before any Jane Austens though. Bronte is a far superior writer, who is realistic, where as Austen focuses upon happily ever after. What I did love about the book, same as Jane Eyre, is the way it makes you feel for the characters. By the end you cannot help wanting lucy to be happy.A beautiful book, but by the end I was wanting it to end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reader, I really like Villette, 28 May 2012
By 
Stracs "Stracs" (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Villette (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
By the time I had forced myself through the first volume of Villette I was seriously concerned I would not be able to finish it, which bothers me as I hate it when I feel defeated by a book. I persisted, however, and am so glad I did because Volume 2 was a massive improvement and Volume 3 utterly captured my heart. I finished the book last week and cannot stop thinking about it, so much has it grabbed hold of my imagination. I wont summarise the plot as others have done so, but instead will give my thoughts on the what I disliked and what I loved about Villette.

Firstly, the dislikes. It is a shame that Volume 1 is a let down, because asides from this then Villette would probably be more highly thought of than Jane Eyre. I found Volume 1 simply too relentlessly depressing for even my serious literary tastes. At this stage of the book Lucy Snowe, well and truly lives up to her name - she is a cold, unsympathetic character reluctant to give away her feelings and thoughts which is never appealing in a narrator. The first few chapters regarding Lucy's time in Bretton feel very disjointed from the rest of the volume, and it is only once you get into Volume 2 that their presence in the novel make any sense. I can see that Bronte was trying to create an element of suspense and suprise here (which I won't give away here), but to me those chapters could still have been better integrated into the rest of the volume.

Now the likes. Bronte's prose is a delight to read, and sits well even to the modern reader. Sometimes the direct appeal to the "reader" can be a bit jarring but on the whole her style is very appealing. The best thing about Villette, though, is the characters. The plot is pretty thin, as is often the way with literature of this period, but that matters not a jot as the characters are more than enough to hold the interest. As I have already said, I found Lucy a hard to like character in the first volume but after that I really grew to love her. Bronte peels away layers of Lucy's psychology like peeling away layers of an onion, gradually revealing more and more about her to the reader until you really come to feel like you know and understand her. She is also quite an unusual character for this period - a woman who takes control of her own life and earns an independent living, unreliant on anyone else for anything - and this makes her very appealing. There are a number of other characters who make fascinating reading. For me I thought M. Paul was easily able to stand up to Mr Darcy and Mr Rochester in the annals of romantic yet moody leading men. Dr John and Mme Beck are also full of character and come to life on the page.

I think I liked the ending, despite it's ambiguity, although I am still debating this with myself internally even now. Whilst Bronte has left the ending up to the reader's imagination, to me it is quite clear what her intention for the ending was and she was put off from it by the publisher who felt it would be too sad. I really wish she had had the courage of her convictions and written it the way she wanted. Whilst I don't mind an ambiguous ending normally, here I felt here that the reader deserved and needed a more definate ending given that by this point the reader has invested so much in Lucy's fate.

All in all though, Villette is a splendid read which, if you can persist past the first volume, will very likely capture a place in your heart and for this is is well worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful trip into a bygone era, 19 May 2012
By 
SunnyB (Somerset, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Villette (Kindle Edition)
It is some years since I read a Bronte work, so will not try to make any comparisons here. I'll simply limit myself to commenting solely on my feelings about this particular work.

Firstly, it was a joy to read. If you are not accustomed to reading an older form of English, it might take a while to get used to the rhythm and to grasp the slightly outdated meaning of some words, but using the Kindle look-up facility helps with this tremendously.

The tale itself has a melancholy to it, but not a deep sadness. The main character is someone struggling to find her way in the world and inevitably meets with joys, set backs and sadnesses. The main part of the story is set in France and so the dialogue is interspersed with French. Although my French is very basic and I was unable to translate the majority of this dialogue, it did not spoil the enjoyment of the story, as the narrative surrounding the dialogue, keeps you in the picture.

My only real criticism is that to me felt like there had been a rush to finish the story. Up to the last chapter the tale was fastidiously told in some detail, but then in the last chapter, it was almost as if Miss Bronte had become tired of her own story and decided to close it down quickly. Yes, you do get to know the fete of the main character (more or less) but it is told in a hurry (if quite poetically) which I found frustrating and disappointing - hence the four rather than five star rating.

Overall a good read and I would recommend it - especially to those coming back to the classics.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars charming...tragic?, 24 Oct. 2002
By 
Nicholas - See all my reviews
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I found myself reading this novel after Jane eyre and wuthering heights (as i am sure most readers probably will) but it is just possible that this book surpasses even those wonderful novels. Lucy snowe is a charming though somewhat unfortunate character who the reader can immediately identify with and other characters (M paul, Paulina) prove almost equally appealing. a tremendous plot that truly does keep the reader guessing also helps to propell the novel along and the last hundred pages or so unravel in a flurry of drama. Some readers have pointed out that they are unsure as to the endings meaning though it is fairly obvious I thought if read a few times. A truly essential item.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, 14 Mar. 2010
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I know that a lot of people have only read Charlotte's Jane Eyre, but I would strongly urge you to try this. This book is inspired by the experiences that Charlotte and Emily had when they taught in a boarding school in Brussels, and written by an older Charlotte than the author of Jane Eyre, this book shows how she had developed in her writing.

The main character in this is Lucy Snowe who eventually travels to the Continent to teach, as did Charlotte. Why this novel works and is so masterful is due to the deftness of touch that Charlotte brings to it. The narrator, Lucy does not come out and tell you everything at once, being a bit secretive. Due to this there is a certain playfulness to the whole tale and Charlotte plays to some extent with her reading audience. To be able to do such a thing and pull it off shows how much she had advanced in her writing skills, and that she had a more positive and commanding attitude to writing.

I do not want to go into the story here in case I end up giving away some spoilers but if you love reading then you must read this book. I personally much prefer this to Jane Eyre, and I know that a lot of others do too; this is Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going, 14 May 2011
By 
M. E. Walker (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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I read Jane Eyre many years ago and remember really enjoying it. So I thought I would give Villette a go. And to be honest, I was a little disappointed by this one. There is no doubt that this is a beautifully written book, and that Bronte's descriptive powers are sometimes quite extraordinary. I also really enjoyed the characters and some of the interplay between them, and indeed in those parts of the novel where there is some action or dialogue, it was quite easy to whizz through the pages. For some reviewers it seems that this is enough. Indeed, one reviewer suggests that this isn't a page-turning 'modern' novel, and we shouldn't expect it to be. That's fair enough.

However, whatever the novel, and whenever it has been written, there does need to be a decent plot. And actually, somewhere in Villette there is a good plot trying to get out, but it is smothered by pages and pages of description. Too often I felt that at last the story was taking off, only for it be slowed down again with long descriptive passages. In a 500+ page novel this is problematic! At times then, I felt that Bronte is a little over-indulgent.

If you too have read Jane Eyre, be warned that this novel is very different. If you like long, descriptive passages which are admittedly beautifully written, you will enjoy this. There was sufficient for me to enjoy in that respect, but in the end I spent a lot of time hoping that something would eventually happen in this story. It sort of did in the end, but by then, I had had enough. In short, a bit of a slog.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An undiscovered masterpiece, vastly superior to Jane Eyre, 8 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
I have just finished reading Charlotte Bronte's "Villette", and I do not believe that any novel that I have read before has touched me quite so much.
"Villette" is an undiscovered masterpiece, vastly superior to "Jane Eyre". M. Paul Emanuel is a more complex, more convincing and more loveable character then Rochester; Lucy Snowe is a more tragic and more moving character then Jane. The text itself is far more compelling, more cleverly constructed, more memorable in almost every way imaginable.
The relationship between Lucy and M. Paul is beautiful, and their final destinies grip the reader, bringing tears to the eyes. Lucy Snowe herself is an amazing character. Hers is a life of happiness never realised; of "cloud and not sunshine". This theme is expressed poignantly, particularly via other characters (especially in the comparisons made between Lucy and M. Paul, Paulina and Graham). The reader is haunted by constant sympathy pangs, by perpetual hope and sadness, an intensity of feeling rarely evoked by a text, but sufficiently mastered by "Villette".
Bronte portrays the fickle nature of society in harrowing detail and the religious theme compliments well this passionate and questioning text. Even more disturbing and wonderful is the theme of weather that permeates the novel. Indeed, the progression of the narrative resembles somewhat that of a storm, with the final terrifying climax at the end. In "Jane Eyre", the weather reflects Jane's feelings, but in "Villette" it becomes a harbinger of doom; an ominous and frightening force.
"Villette" is also supremely comic, and the ironic humour displayed by Lucy Snowe adds a new dimension to her character and to the text. The struggle between Lucy's passionate nature and cold exterior is convincing, and often establishes a chilling, claustrophobic atmosphere. Towards the end of the novel, the reader does not dare hope that Lucy's 'Eden' will last, because her experiences are so contrary; it is with dread terror that we await it's destruction, and with a frustrated sense of injustice that we finally hear of it.
Bronte has created some of her most compelling characters within this text; characters that leave a lasting impression upon the reader. This is particularly true of the invincible Madame Beck and the frivolous, precocious Ginevra Fanshawe.
More profound, complex and moving then "Jane Eyre", "Villette" has been cheated of the credit that it deserves as a compelling narrative. In my opinion, "Villette" stands as Bronte's most glorious literary achievment.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'But are you anybody?', 8 May 2010
By 
D. J. H. Thorn "davethorn13" (Hull, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Villette (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
Comparisons of 'Villette' with the more famous 'Jane Eyre' are, I suppose, inevitable, especially as they share several characteristics. Both are narrated by an intelligent young woman without dazzling looks, wealth, or the emotional resource of their own families. Both feature strong Gothic elements in places. I cannot agree, however, with the notion that 'Villette' is a match for its more famous cousin. It is beautifully written and for the most part enjoys a poetic rhythm, this being its main strength. Whereas 'Jane Eyre' has tension from the outset, though, 'Villette' is all too often slack. We find Lucy Snowe in a loving household at the start of the novel and although she appears vulnerable at several points thereafter, there is little in the way of palpable danger or ambition. Whereas Jane Eyre struggles to survive a hostile environment, spiritually, emotionally and physically, Lucy Snowe seems to do little more than drift for much of the novel.

I thought at first, however, that 'Villette' would be a more realistic novel. 'Jane Eyre' suffers from at least one ludicrous coincidence and the business of the 'madwoman in the attic' is still debated. In 'Villette', however, Bronte is also guilty of incredible coincidence. Long lost friends bumping into one another is acceptable enough, but when three such parties achieve it by going to live in the same town in another country, that is stretching it beyond belief. My other gripe is that, far from racing toward the end of the novel, I found my interest winding down. Much of this has to do with a demand that we admire characters whose earlier behaviour warrants derision. I am thinking specifically of the type who rummages through another's belongings.

In spite of the above, Bronte's writing is a pleasure to read and I did eventually tune into the central character. The quote at the top sums her self-effacing attitude up. A reasonable knowledge of French helps as does having a dictionary to hand ('hebdomadal'?). 'Villette' is a good novel, but as good as 'Jane Eyre'? Please...
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute joy to read, 30 Mar. 2009
By 
Boof (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Reader, I heart Ms. Bronte! Reading Villette was like reading a huge epic that I was so emmersed in that I walked in Lucy Snowe's shoes, I felt what she felt. How many authors can do that to you?

Lucy Snowe is difficult to get to know at first. In fact, she is difficult to like. This is deliberate; she tells you about other people, what they think, what they feel, but precious little about herself, of whom she appears fiercely private. Only as the story unfolds does she start to let you in - I remember being surprised when she showed such tender, gentle thoughts and actions towards the sick daughter of her employer; that, I believe, was the first glimpse of emotion from Lucy and it really endeared me to her. Lucy Snowe's name was not an accident - Bronte toyed with Lucy Frost for a while before settling on Snowe. She also allows us to see her as others do: "Crabbed and crusty" said Ginevra, a pupil at the school, and "unfeeling thing that I was" written to her in a letter. The point is, she isn't unfeeling at all. She is lonely and trying to make her way in an unfamiliar world. Lucy's past is only hinted at but it appears to have been an unhappy one.

Brontes prose is gorgeous, Villette is such a richly embroidered account of a young woman trying to make a life for herself in a foreign country and fighting for independence and friendship. This book isn't a romance in the same way that Jane Eyre is. I wasn't sure for a long time who the leading man would be (in fact he doesn't even appear until the second half of the book). And it isn't love at first sight, we watch it grow.

I absolutely adored this book and it is now a firm favourtie of mine. I finished it last night and I finally closed the book in a daze. I don't want to give anything away, but I was not expecting what happended at the end at all. That came completely out of the blue for me.

Go ahead, indluge and enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and passionate, 24 Mar. 2004
By 
Cecilia S. Idiart (Buenos Aires, Argentina) - See all my reviews
"Villette" is the history of Lucy Snowe, an original and absorbing character. The title of the book refers to the city she moves to after finding herself completely alone in England. In Villette, Labassecour she is employed as a teacher by inquisitive Madame Beck, director of a "pensionnat de demoisellles". Several fascinating characters are presented, like capricious M. Paul Emanuel, chivalrous Graham Bretton, strange Paulina and frivolous Ginevra Fanshawe, and all throughout the novel the complex plot is carried out excellently. In comparison with "Jane Eyre"- Charlotte Brontė's most famous book - "Villette" is a more mature work and features a better-developed characterization. To sum up, I would recommend "Villette" to readers already familiar with its author's style, but who want something more sophisticated.
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Villette (Wordsworth Classics)
Villette (Wordsworth Classics) by Charlotte Brontė (Paperback - 5 Oct. 1993)
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