Every book of Charlotte Bronte’s takes me one step closer to her noetic world of fiction. I was fascinated by Jane Eyre’s sensibility, William Crimsworth’s fine affairs but it was the ever pervading sense of cold morality evident in Villette that struck me. Villette opened up to me a completely different portal to Charlotte’s writing, one that I hadn’t perceived earlier from her other works.
The story unfolds with the childhood of Lucy Snowe and rolls through the adventures or rather the misadventures of her life. A pretty usual plot for a writer from the Victorian Era but it is in her style that Bronte, as always, secerns herself. Like any other book of hers I kept flipping through the eloquent pages to reach the end of it. But the beauty if the book presented itself to me much after putting it down. At first I was as overwhelmed by the story as I am after ravening a Bronte book. It struck me later that this one had been quite different in its tone.
There was much uncertainty in even hoping for clear skies, many a dilemma and what hit me hard was the strong presence of the supernatural themes. Lucy Snowe is encounters several spine chilling experiences and I wondered if I had to start believing in the supernatural too. Conviction is something that Bronte has taught. Bronte’s writing never fails to show me that she was much convinced about what she wrote and I can’t be helped from being influenced from such a strong personality. Of course the explanations for them come by eventually, but the credibility of the preceding events amazed me.
There’s a lot to be had from the book- ruthless storms and biting winds, revealing nights, powerful mistresses, learned men, compassionate physicians, loving aunts, flirtatious young women, unknown places, fete’s… But the one stark and quite intimidating aspect too is the protagonist, Lucy Snowe. I was unable to place her until after I read the book and then it all became clear to me. She passes through the rough tides of her life with morality as the base lying beneath her all the time. She’s passive yet knowing, sensible yet juvenile, brave yet weak when emotions overwhelm her. Her solitude is her greatest companion and finally gives her the much-needed solace. Critics and some people are of the opinion that this is a rather slow book but it has a world of things to offer in its elaborateness.
Virginia Woolf in her collection of essays, “The Common Reader Vol. 1” beautifully comments about the ending of Villette. She writes:
It is with a description of a storm that Charlotte ends her finest novel Villette. “The skies hang full and dark–a wrack sails from the west; the clouds cast themselves into strange forms.” So she calls in nature to describe a state of mind which could not otherwise be expressed.
The imaginary town of Villette is another enamouring block of the book. The settings are as vivid in this volume as in all of Bronte’s other works and its gravity is ever so absorbing. Events take turns in the most unpredictable manner and this only adds to the finery. Bronte’s mastery over story-telling is remarkably conspicuous in this book and so are the principles that she believed in life. There’s a lot more mentioning about churches, Father’s and sins.
The marvellousness of the work lies in the fact that though Bronte conveys a lot she does it in the most elegant, light yet impactful manner. There’s ever so much to be learnt from Bronte. And I recommend Villette to anyone whom I meet across the road.
You can read Virginia Woolf’s, “The Common Reader Vol. 1” here. And Villette is pretty much available in everybook store.