Villette by Charlotte Bronté

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Arguably Brontë’s most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette, flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.

Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Published 1853 (under Currer Bell) by Smith, Elder & Co.
Format: e-book; 432 pages
Classics/Romance/Gothic Fiction
Also By This Author: Jane EyreShirley
AmazonGoodreads
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Villette took me months to finish; 10 months to be exact. It may be surprising, therefore, that I would give this book a 4-star rating, but despite feeling like a sloth trying to force my way through the majority of this novel, the last 50-60 pages made the sluggish journey completely worth it.

Villette, much like its beloved sister-novel Jane Eyre, is a gothic Victorian love story involving a persevering, deep-feeling narrator and a misunderstood, secretly caring Byronic hero. Unlike Jane Eyre, Miss Lucy Snowe is an unreliable, often unlikable narrator. I actually had a hard time desiring good things for her until the final chapters. I won’t sugar coat it; being inside her mind was annoying at times. She was judgmental and behaved bitterly towards most of her companions. Charlotte Brontë purposefully gave her an icy surname.

Honestly, I was very disinterested in Villette until the climax of the story and from that point on I was hooked. The long-awaited sentimentality that Charlotte Brontë excelled at did not disappoint. On the contrary, it was so lovely I probably would have cried if I hadn’t been reading it at work (I happily sobbed through the ending of Jane Eyre from the privacy of my bedroom).

It also helps to know that Villette borrows from real events in the author’s life. It could even be called autobiographical in many ways. If you’ve already read Villette or you don’t mind major spoilers, here’s an excellent analysis of the novel and Charlotte’s connection to Lucy Snowe.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy classic gothic literature (think Jane EyreNorthanger Abbey, or even Edgar Allan Poe).
…you love unrequited love stories.
…you can enjoy a book even if the main character is unpleasant or hard to sympathize with.
…you love captivating conclusions (Villette will intrigue you and stay on your mind long after you finish it).

Final Musings

There was a 1970s miniseries of Villette, but alas! It has been lost. Unfortunately this is the case for numerous British miniseries from the 1970s and earlier. Frankly I think it’s horrible and I’m really upset because I would love to watch all of the literary-inspired shows!

There are also two different radio dramatizations of Villette that BBC Radio has produced, but I haven’t found a way to listen to them, yet :(

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None

First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Published November 6, 1939 by Collins Crime Club
Format: e-book; 264 pages
Classics / Mystery

Also By This Author: Murder on the Orient ExpressMurder at the Vicarage
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Last month (I think it was last month, I’m so far behind on my reviews!) I read Agatha Christie’s most famous book, And Then There Were None in an entire day. I seriously could not put it down. This was my second Agatha Christie novel and I’m so glad I finally read this one because I loved it!

The author’s introduction had me intrigued from the start. I tried to be extremely observant so I could figure out some clues along the way, but I did not want to discover “whodunnit” before the big reveal. I thought it would be more suspenseful that way, and it was! Although I did not guess who the killer was, I did have some inklings along the way. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil anything.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy reading books that keep you on the edge of your seat.
…you’re into mysteries, especially murder-myseries.
…you like stories that are told from multiple points of view.
…you love thrillers!

Final Musings

The biggest reason why I wanted to read this novel was because of the recent BBC adaptation starring Aidan Turner (of Poldark fame) among some other lovely actors such as Sam Neill and Miranda Richardson. The adaptation itself was very spooky and even more suspenseful than the book, which surprised me since at that point I already knew what happened. The story reached the same outcome, but the means the miniseries creators took to get there differed slightly from the book. But it worked very well, in my opinion.

I have yet to watch any other adaptations but I was very satisfied with this one. Here’s the trailer if you’re interested!

Northanger Abbey & Being Catherine Morland

Northanger Abbey

Yes, Catherine. The middle of the night is definitely the perfect time to inspect some creepy old cabinet.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Published Dec 1817 by John Murray
Classic/Romance/Suspense
Format: e-book; 170 pages
Also From This Author: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

I was filled with a bitter-sweet feeling after finishing Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey last month; bitter because it was the last Austen novel I had yet to read and sweet because I finally found the Austen heroine I most resemble. Yes, I am Catherine Morland: young, adventurous, naive at times, and above all, impressively talented at scaring myself.

Earlier this year I read Shannon Hale’s novels Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. The first novel borrows extensively from Pride and Prejudice, but Midnight in Austenland is a partial re-imagining of Northanger Abbey, so of course that means I wanted to stay up until 2 A.M. reading it. This is the perfect hour to read gothic novels: the moon is high and bright in the sky, everyone else in my apartment complex is fast asleep, and it’s either eerily quiet outside or there’s that one pair of stray cats defending their territories somewhere far off.

For those of you unfamiliar with Northanger or Midnight in Austenland, without spoiling too much, both Catherine Morland and Charlotte Kinder convince themselves that a gruesome murder has been committed and then become obsessed with finding (mainly fabricating) evidence and motives. So, while reading Midnight in Austenland, I heard (or imagined) a noise somewhere in my apartment and immediately my heart started pounding. Of course this noise can’t be nothing, and although, unlike our gothic heroines, I didn’t immediately imagine a murder scene, I did use the flashlight on my phone to quickly scan my bedroom to make sure nothing was lurking about. And that is the moment I knew I was Catherine Morland (despite the fact that at that point I hadn’t even read Northanger Abbey yet).

Northanger Abbey was published posthumously, roughly four months after Austen’s death, but interestingly enough it was actually the first novel Austen completed. It has many similarities to Austen’s other novels, for example it is a coming-of-age tale that includes deceptive “gold-digger” type characters, exaggerates inappropriate behaviors, and discusses the relationship between love, marriage, and fortune. However, this novel reads a lot differently than Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, which were Austen’s first two published novels. I felt that the characters were somewhat flat and didn’t possess complex personalities, but this was probably Austen’s design in wanting her novel to be more plot-driven. She’s very much criticizing gothic literature in her unique comical way, and if she knew how badly I spooked myself while reading Northanger Abbey, she’d probably smirk and shake her head at me.

Besides Catherine Morland, we also have the witty and always-amiable Mr. Henry Tilney who unintentionally provokes Catherine’s overactive imagination, as well as the persistently arrogant John Thorpe, who literally had me muttering my annoyances out loud. Well done Austen for making a character seem both flat and unbearably annoying at the same time.

Like I usually do after reading most classic novels, I watched the film adaptation to Northanger Abbey as well. Fun fact: Mr. Henry Tilney is played by JJ Field, who also plays the male lead in the film adaptation of Austenland. I think I preferred his light-hearted and teasing nature as Mr. Tilney, but maybe that’s just the Catherine in me speaking ;) Either way, I enjoyed both films, although Austenland is typically cheesy.

jjfield

Top: Northanger Abbey (2007) // Bottom: Austenland (2013)

Jane Eyre Chapters I-XI

As previously mentioned, I am participating in a Jane Eyre read-along this month, so for those of you who have not read at least the first 11 chapters of the novel, be prepared for some spoilers.

This is my first time reading Jane Eyre, and before I started I had absolutely no idea what it was about, and had only heard mixed reviews on whether I should like it or not. Typically I do enjoy Gothic literature, especially Gothic short stories (A Rose for EmilyThe Cask of Amontillado, and The Lottery are just a few of my favorites), but I had always assumed that Charlotte Brontë’s novel would be similar to her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights, which I have continued to like less and less since I read it almost 9 years ago, mainly because of how awful the characters are to one another.

And so when I finally started reading Jane Eyre last night, I was rather discouraged before I even reached the third chapter, and this can all be contributed to the horrid Reed family, who have probably succeeded in winning the “Quickest Character(s) to Earn My Undying Hatred” Award (move over, Dolores Umbridge).

But in all seriousness, John Reed MUST have been George R. R. Martin’s inspiration for Joffrey Baratheon. Consider this lovely (and somewhat lengthy) passage, which serves as our introduction to Jane’s malicious cousin:

     “What do you want?” I asked, with awkward diffidence.
“Say, ‘What do you want, Master Reed?'” was the answer. “I want you to come here;” and seating himself in an arm-chair, he intimated by a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.
[…]
Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion in my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair.
“That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since,” said he, “and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!”
Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult.
“What were you doing behind the curtain?” he asked.
“I was reading.”
“Show the book.”
I returned to the window and fetched it thence.
“You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense. Now, I’ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they ARE mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows.”
I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough, however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
“Wicked and cruel boy!” I said. “You are like a murderer–you are like a slave-driver–you are like the Roman emperors!”
[…]
“What! what!” he cried. “Did she say that to me? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? Won’t I tell mama?[…]”

This.

Fortunately, after reading through Chapter 11 I can safely say that the book has greatly improved, although some of the chapters did seem to drag on a bit. I did however love the goodbye scene between Jane and Helen Burns. It was so beautiful and emotion-filled. I love heart-wrenching stories like that. I know it’s pathetic, but those types of emotions always have a greater impact on me. I am sad to lose Helen as a character, though…she was so good and kind-hearted. I admired her forgiving spirit, and the fact that she never held a grudge ever. I know that if I had to pick between which of these girls I am most inclined to be like, it would without a doubt have to be Jane. I was pretty convicted in that regard. But through Helen and Jane’s relationship I was able to relate to our heroine and find a connection with her, which is an essential factor in me being able to like the novel. This is also why I classify myself as being a part of the minority of Austenites who love Fanny Price/Mansfield Park.

So I can truthfully say I am now eagerly looking forward to the rest of Miss Eyre’s story, as long as there are no more appearances from the Victorian Joffrey (and if there are, all of you who have already read Jane Eyre are encouraged to laugh pitifully at me).

But I really do love modern-classic crossovers, so here are two more little funny gems for you all:

Joffrey

“How to be a Turd” written by John Reed

Hamlet

Unrelated, but still amazing.

Septemb-Eyre

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast month I participated in an online read-along for Mansfield Park. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to join another one this month for Jane Eyre, which I have never read before. This novel is also on my Classics Club list, so I figured that it would be more fun to read it with other bloggers than by myself. I actually don’t know much at all about the story and I have never seen any film adaptations. I have heard mixed reviews about this novel, but hopefully I end up enjoying it. And hopefully I am able to keep up with the weekly readings (I have to read the first 11 chapters for next week’s post)!

If any of you are also interested in reading along, here’s the link to sign up and here’s the link for the first week’s introductory postings.