Note: The image links to Barnes & Noble's paperback and ebook edition of Villette. If you would prefer a free ebook edition, you can download a nicely formatted one for free at Girlebooks.com.
I love the Brontë sisters' books, but there were a few I had yet to read, so I set out to read them. Villette was the next on my list after Agnes Grey, and having finished it at long last, I confess I need a break from the Brontës' world — or should I say from Charlotte.
I love Jane Eyre — there's no doubt about that. Even though Charlotte is not my favorite of the three (I prefer Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall to all the others), I've always loved Jane for her independence, and her story for the mystery and its gothic influences. I also enjoyed Shirley quite a bit, and for a similar reason: The title character was so spirited!
Villette, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. I've heard that one of the complaints of Shirley was that the plot was so meandering — but whoever complained of that one's plot couldn't possibly have read Villette. It takes forever to figure out where the plot is going, and really never does succeed in making the reader care about the heroine, Lucy Snowe.
What frightens me is that Charlotte's first novel, The Professor, which was unpublished until after her death — and is the only one I have left to read — is supposed to be an even less passionate version of Villette. Even less passionate? I expect it will be as dry as cardboard.
I hate to say it, but unlike Anne, who shows clear improvement in her writing between Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I don't think Charlotte's writing improves over time at all. In fact, I think she gets wordier and less focused with each book she writes!