Arguably Charlotte Brontë’s most refined and deeply felt work, the autobiographical Villette is a strikingly modern story of a young woman starting over – a powerfully moving study of isolation, and the pain of unrequited love.
The story opens with the quiet and passive Lucy Snowe who is staying at the home of her godmother Mrs. Bretton in the ancient English town of Bretton. Here we meet Mrs. Bretton’s son, John Graham Bretton, and a young visitor, Paulina (Polly) Home, a peculiar little girl who soon develops a deep devotion to Graham who showers her with attention during her brief stay.
Some years pass, during which a family tragedy leaves Lucy without family, home or means. Believing herself to be friendless, Lucy flees England and leaves her future to fate. Her directionless adventure eventually leads her to be hired as governess, and then school mistress, by a suspicious and cunning headmistress at an all-girls boarding school in the small French town of Villette.
Narrated by a heroine determined to preserve an independent spirit in the face of continuous adversity, Villette is the “must read” which George Eliot claimed to be “a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre,” a work of rich language and description to be read and re-read.
Review by Michele P.