Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

October Books 4) Villette

4) Villette, by Charlotte Brontë

With my ancestral home being near where the Brontë sisters' father was born, and having trudged through Jane Eyre for my O-level in English Literature (one of my two B grades, along with Religious Education), I have always had a vague interest in them. But this was the first Charlotte Brontë novel I have read as an adult (I did read Wuthering Heights a couple of years back, prompted by the BBC's Big Read).

Part of the attraction (apart from it being part of my Unread Books Project) is that Villette is Brussels, and the small largely Francophone kingdom of Labassecour (which still retains its impenetrable aboriginal dialect) is Belgium. There's not a lot of English-language fiction set in my adopted homeland. (Even less sf or fantasy.) The only other bit that leaps to mind is the couple of glimpses in Heart of Darkness. So it was interesting to read the book and try and match description to location. In fact, I have ordered a wee book called Charlotte Brontë's Promised Land, by Eric Ruijssenaars, from the Brontë Society website, to slake my curiosity.

Having said all that, unfortunately Villette is not a very strong example of the sisters' genius. There are too many unlikely coincidences, and I was very uncomfortable with the way in which the narrator reacts to being emotionally abused by one of her axcquaintances by falling in love with him. It was not at all clear to me why she did not end up with the nice doctor chap. In addition, though this is supporting evidence rather than crucial, I don't think the book does well on the Bechdel Test. Anyway, interesting to see the Brussels of a century and a half ago through someone else's eyes.
Tags: bookblog 2006, brussels, unread books project, world: belgium, writer: charlotte bronte
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