Villette or That Time I Swore at a Bronte

So I just finished Villette. I kid you not when I read the last page and closed the book I yelled out “what the f*ck?” to a thankfully empty lunchroom.

It took me a while to get through Villette. It’s a shade under 600 pages but mostly I just couldn’t get into it. I wasn’t attached to Lucy Snowe or Madame Beck or even Paulina Bassompierre. Certainly not to Ginevra Fanshawe (but that’s a great name).

After something happens to wipe out her entire family, friendless Lucy Snowe takes a chance and travels to Belgium where she finds work as a nanny for the children of the directrice of a school for girls. Soon she becomes the English teacher and so she passes her days, mostly really sad because she has no home and no friends. During the vacation she ends up wandering around the streets of Villette and passes out. She wakes up in the house of her godmother (who we’d met at the beginning of the book). She thinks she’s gone mad but finds out that no, her godmother and her son moved to Villette and brought all their things with them.

So things get better because now she has some friends that take her out every once in a while. She thinks she’s in love with the son (a doctor!) but he’s interested in her little friend Ginevra. Who is a little flirt and is using the doctor to make a colonel jealous and vice versa. Then an old acquaintance comes to town and the doctor falls in love with her.

Where does this leave our Lucy Snowe?

With the professor, M. Paul Emmanuel. He’s a strange little man, always picking fights with her but it turns out that he’s in love with her.

I’m basically going to ruin the whole thing for you, so if you haven’t read the book and you still want to, you might want to stop reading this now.

M. Paul Emmanuel is the cousin of the woman who runs the school and she doesn’t want Lucy to marry him. So first she makes up this story that she thinks will convince Lucy to leave him alone. But that only makes Lucy love him more. So then she comes up with a way to send Paul away for three years. He leaves, believing that he will be able to make his fortune which would allow him to marry (he’s a teacher so he makes no money) but before he goes he sets up a school for Lucy so that she can be her own mistress.

She spends 3 awesome years, teaching and writing to him and reading his letters and being happy and then prepares for him to come home after 3 years. And then there’s a storm. And the whole thing ends with Lucy telling us no more because she thinks it would be better for us all to imagine a happy ending.

One that clearly did not happen.

I can’t decide if I’m more upset that he possibly died or that I don’t know for sure. I mean, I’m 98% sure that he died in the storm, right before he was supposed to arrive. But what about that 2%? She does say that the 3 years before he comes back are the happiest, which is a weird thing to say if you marry the man of your dreams after all. So I guess he dies. Which is still the worst ending ever.

Jane Austen would never pull this sh*t.

9 thoughts on “Villette or That Time I Swore at a Bronte

  1. Hmmm…seems maybe we figured out part of the Austen vs Bronte situation?!

    This isn’t by chance one of those novels that she didn’t finish herself? Someone else picked it up and finished it…like Clare Boylan did with Bronte’s “Emma Brown” manuscript.

    • Haha I think the pendulum may have swung in favour of Austen for sure!
      I think she finished it herself but I haven’t actually checked. It was just so dissatisfying!!! All that work and not even a proper ending. So many questions. Actually I think I remember reading that she meant for the ending to be a puzzle, so mission accomplished I guess!

  2. I wasn’t that fond of Villette either but I ploughed through t because it is semi-autobiograpical. As you love biographies you have to read about the Bronte sisters. Anyway, Charlotte Bronte actually went to Belgium and taught /nannied ( I forget now) and fell in love with someone who is obviously Paul Emmanuel. After her return to England they corresponded but he basically dumped her. Death in a shipwreck was too good for him! But salvaged her pride.

  3. I have stumbled upon you, and found this review quite hilarious! I read this last year and have absolutely no recollection of the ending. It must have made such an impression on me. However I do remember enjoying the novel as a whole.

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  5. Pingback: Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley Is No North and South | The Paperback Princess

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