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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something for grown-ups to get their teeth into.
"Villette" is not so well known as "Jane Eyre", but it has much in common with it and is every bit as interesting. Our heroine and narrator is a young woman called Lucy Snowe: poor, possessed of no special talents, and left to her own resources, she takes a startling gamble with fate by sailing to France, and there finds a living as a teacher in the...
Published 9 months ago by Jason Mills

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Villette - not as good as her usual work
I was disappointed - the main character was too introspective perhaps since I wanted to shake her up a bit.
Plus I do not speak French, so I was left feeling an ignoramus because there were no footnotes with the French text translated. I have enough understanding of words derived from Latin and French to work out the gist but it was a distraction that detracted from...
Published on 7 Feb. 2013 by Elisabeth Frewin


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something for grown-ups to get their teeth into., 27 Aug. 2014
By 
Jason Mills "jason10801" (Accrington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Villette (Kindle Edition)
"Villette" is not so well known as "Jane Eyre", but it has much in common with it and is every bit as interesting. Our heroine and narrator is a young woman called Lucy Snowe: poor, possessed of no special talents, and left to her own resources, she takes a startling gamble with fate by sailing to France, and there finds a living as a teacher in the eponymous town. To avoid spoilers, I'll say only that we are much concerned with the men she meets.

Lucy Snowe is a well named, for she hides her extraordinary passions beneath a cool exterior. Her nature is contrary, elusive and contradictory, puzzling even to those closest to her: even we, her readers, are but qualified confidantes, often left in the dark by her reticence. Whilst doing what she must to make her way in the world, Lucy somehow remains uncompromising, aloof and self-sufficient, earning respect even from those she most confounds. She is perhaps the most intriguing female character I've ever read about.

Just as in "Jane Eyre", Charlotte leans shamelessly on coincidence to work her plot, but a little cunning telegraphy sweetens the pill, providing this reader with a satisfying oh-I-see! moment. Just as in "Jane Eyre", different kinds of potential suitors for our narrator are juxtaposed and contrasted; and different styles of womanhood are presented, demonstrating what Lucy is not. But the arc of this book is less obvious than in "Jane Eyre": we are very far along before we even understand what kind of story this is (and the saucy intrusion of classic gothic elements keeps us guessing).

Speaking of technique, Charlotte's prose is superbly controlled, whether lofty and fanciful or sharp and deft, as here:

"...it was not my godmother's habit to make a bustle, and she preferred all sentimental demonstrations in bas-relief."

It's also frequently a novel of high humour, through Lucy's dry observations. Here we catch her in catty mood:

"[I was] paired with Ginevra Fanshawe, bearing on my arm the dear pressure of that angel's not unsubstantial limb - (she continued in excellent case, and I can assure the reader it was no trifling business to bear the burden of her loveliness; many a time in the course of that warm day I wished to goodness there had been less of the charming commodity)..."

I could have done without swathes of dialogue conducted in French, but I suppose Charlotte was not to know that half-educated barbarians like me might paw at her books a century later!

"Villette" is an impressive achievement, beautifully constructed, relentless in its focus, concerned with the affections and interior lives of complex and atypical people, and with much to say about both religious disagreement and transcending those disagreements. It insists on its own careful, measured pace, even as it treads through the most surprising situations and revelations, and sure enough it arrives punctually at its intended, yet long unsuspected, destination. Excellent stuff.

(Incidentally, the Gutenberg/Kindle freebie edition has lots of typos, mainly wayward punctuation; but I would be fascinated to observe "Madame Beck's fist classe"!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding novel, outstanding performance., 5 Aug. 2013
The art of Charlotte Bronte is the antithesis of the art of Charles Dickens. Where Dickens grandstands, Bronte speaks to the reader as an intelligent confidante. In place of ravishing rhapsodic rhetoric, we have a prose style as plain as a Quaker's dress. She exhibits no awareness of the large social issues, no interest whatever in promoting social justice; her mission is the search for personal integrity and salvation, with little interest in conventional piety. Where Dickens dazzles us with broad comedy, sensational melodrama and memorable caricature, Bronte offers only understatement, quiet irony and nice observation. In place of his broad canvases peopled by a cast of hundreds of colourful types, we are given insights into a select handful of individuals. The main difference between Charlotte Bronte and perhaps any other nineteenth century novelist is that her principal characters have an intense, compelling and credible inner life as they search for decency and meaning without reference to prescribed norms and conventions. She is the first psychological novelist, the first existentialist.

Villette is a huge advance on Jane Eyre: in place of its moments of romantic fantasy, we are offered an adult love story in which love is explored as something rather more complex and interesting than Hollywood could understand. Like the best parts of Jane Eyre, Villette is largely autobiographical: the situations and emotions do not feel not simulated but acutely and honestly recalled. It is also one of the best constructed novels in the canon.

Mandy Weston's reading is compelling. She is an excellent actress who brings to life all the major characters, male and female: no mean feat since they have a tendency to lapse into French frequently and occasionally into German. If her enunciation is a tad plebeian for an English teacher, her dramatic intelligence is ample compensation. Unfortunately for non French speakers, there are no subtitles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Villette - not as good as her usual work, 7 Feb. 2013
By 
Elisabeth Frewin "Leaf" (Andover UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Villette (Kindle Edition)
I was disappointed - the main character was too introspective perhaps since I wanted to shake her up a bit.
Plus I do not speak French, so I was left feeling an ignoramus because there were no footnotes with the French text translated. I have enough understanding of words derived from Latin and French to work out the gist but it was a distraction that detracted from enjoying the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So beautiful., 18 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Villette (Kindle Edition)
I think a main reason people rate Villette poorly is for the French and they have immense trouble with it, which is a shame and prevents them from appreciating this novel. Charlotte Bronte wrote beautifully. The character of Lucy is particularly brilliant as she is modest and withdrawn yet observes and analyses and where most people see a plain girl we can see the fire in her heart and mind. Alongside M. Emanuell of course. The Protestant and Catholic divisions were tastefully approached and overcome which was great. One complaint was the lack of direction Lucy's feelings went in for Graham other than that, definitely a great Bronte favourite of mine and a lovely romance story.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A bit hard work., 10 July 2014
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A bit hard work in places but you do get wrapped in the character.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 3 July 2014
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Great transaction, thanks.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear, this story is a mess, 29 Jun. 2014
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This was not a fun read. It needs a thorough edit to make it readable and to sustain interest. I suggest it is one for the dedicated Bronte lovers and not one for the casual reader.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dialogue in French!, 25 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Villette (Kindle Edition)
Gave up after about 1/4 of the book. My schoolgirl French couldn't follow half of what was being said in the dialogue and it was way too slow for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 13 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Villette (Kindle Edition)
I really liked this book. The characters are interesting and flawed and I really got along well with the writing style. Certain parts of the book are written in French and no translation is offered however I have only a very basic knowledge of French and I managed. I think if you enjoyed Jane Eyre you will enjoy Villette.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Bronte, 11 Jun. 2014
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What is not to like? Charlotte Bronte whisks us in and out of the life and times of Miss Lucy Snowe. The coincidences of plot come thick and fast in Villette. The fact that Lucy was acquainted with a de Bassompierre in childhood, and that she just happens to meet another relative of that family (Ginevra) on her sea-crossing, are rather ludicrously unlikely taken together. But the world of early nineteenth-century Europe was smaller than today, with fewer people in the educated classes. ... hope that this has tickled your tastebuds?
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Villette by Charlotte Brontė
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