Friday, February 18, 2011

Villette Read-Along: Chapters 6-11

Yeah, I'm posting a day late.  Maybe next week I'll make up for it by posting a day early.  That would even it out, right?  Well, better late than never, I guess.

This week's reading covers Chapters 6-11 (pages 58-134 of 657 in my copy).  I'm not going to recap what happened in these chapters, because Wallace did it perfectly already.  Look here for my First Impressions, on Chapters 1-5.

The Reading Experience
The biggest difference in this section, as far as readability and pace, is all of the French included.  I know no French.  I am French-less.  I kept thinking it would be so much nicer if the French bits were Spanish bits.  I could do Spanish, (I had 4 years of it in high school,) but French?  Was it assumed that Bronte's readers would know some French?

Well, Google Translator became my close friend in these chapters.  I'm loving the layout/typesetting of my Everyman's Library edition, it's easy on the eyes, but it doesn't offer even a hint of translation.  I may switch to a Kindle version so that I don't need to keep up the reading/typing/translating cycle.  Aside from that the reading went quickly.  Much more quickly than I was expecting based on my memories of reading Jane Eyre.

The Cast
I'm still intrigued by Lucy Snowe.  We are getting to know more and more about her, but what is fascinating is how the information is related.  We get snippets of how she thinks of herself:
"If left to myself, I should infallibly have let this chance slip.  Inadventurous, unstirred by impulses of practical ambition, I was capable of sitting twenty years teaching infants the hornbook, turning silk dresses, and making children's frocks.  Not that true contentment dignified this infatuated resignation: my work had neither charm for my taste, nor hold on my interest; but it seemed to me a great thing to be without heavy anxiety, and relieved from intimate trial; the negation of severe suffering was the nearest approach to happiness I expected to know."
We also get some of her opinions (like the Protestant/Catholic issues, and the class/behavior issues) get to see some of her actions (in the classroom, around the doctor) and even get a hint of what she thinks others think of her.  "It was very seldom that I uttered more than monosyllables in Dr John's presence; he was the kind of person with whom I was likely ever to remain the neutral passive thing he thought me."  For all this information, however, she still holds herself somewhat aloof.  She is certainly a character with layers.

Other characters?   I'm loving them.  Ginevra, the Madame's children, and indeed all of the students at the school feel...foreign.  And fascinating, and frustrating.  At times it seems that Lucy is a bit bewildered with their way of living and thinking, that it is backwards and perhaps a bit daft--a fabulous representation of living in a foreign country, I would think.

The Plot and The Writing
Plot-wise, the simplicity and convenience with which Lucy lands in her new arrangements was a bit implausible, although the enjoyment I'm getting out of the book has made up for that.  This is not to say that her journey was easy, only that it seemed to lack some complexity.  Is this where the Gothic influence comes in?  Regardless, I thought this sentence was lovely:
I knew I was catching at straws; but in the wide and weltering deep where I found myself, I would have caught at cobwebs.
This paragraph made me think I was in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights for a moment, so dramatic did it seem:
I started.  About a hundred thoughts volleyed through my mind in a moment.  Yet I planned nothing, and considered nothing: I had not time.  Providence said, "Stop here; this is your inn."  Fate took me in her strong hand; mastered my will; directed my actions: I rung the door-bell.
Observations & Thoughts
It is rare for me to be so entranced with a classic...usually they are enjoyable, but a bit of work.  Villette has sucked me in.  The characters are interesting, and the writing sparkles.  Apart from all the French that I'm apparently supposed to be familiar with, it has been a great reading experience so far.  I'm surprised that I have so much to say about such small portions of the book!  I may end up reading ahead...I've just realized that I will be in Ireland during the last two weeks of the Read-Along, so it might be best if I finish beforehand and schedule my posts.  If the pace and interest level keep up, though, I'll have no problem reading it a bit more quickly.  Until next week!


  1. Alright, I almost feel like I am now, too, going to need to read this.

  2. Belle, I think you'd like it. Based on what I've read so far at least.

    Being in the middle of a Charles Dickens book as well as a George Eliot book, I'm finding this one comparatively and surprisingly layered while maintaining a simple, poetic prose. It is definitely the most 'grabbing' of the 3.

  3. I read Villette years ago and loved it. I was in a Charlotte Bronte phase of life (which only means I was reading all kinds of things by her). Have you read Shirley? I cannot recall finishing that one. :(

  4. I've only read Jane Eyre before this, as far as Charlotte goes. Of the other Brontes, I read Emily's Wuthering Heights and high school and found it way too dramatic, and Anne's Agnes Grey a year or two back and enjoyed it, though it was much more even keel than her sister's writing. I'd like to read Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte...have you read that one?

  5. Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorites. I've never read this one. Wow. It sounds great!


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