books, ness talks books

Recountings – Villette: an Adverse Reaction


Disclaimer: This was, for the most part, written the Day After Reading, when the trauma was still fresh and painful in my mind.


by Charlotte Bronte

– Here be Spoilers –

Perhaps I should have looked a little more closely at the reviews I read weeks before starting Villette. Perhaps I should have opened the spoilers.

But no, I didn’t. I wanted to be surprised. I wanted this to be a book adventure that was unmapped. After all, I’d read Jane Eyre and loved it – why should this be any different?

Ha. Why, indeed.

While I affectionately – and somewhat irreverently – nicknamed Jane Eyre ‘Foiled Attempts at Bigamy’ I would do the same to Villette: ‘Failed Attempts at Happiness’.

It took two days to read the five hundred odd pages. I’d become attached to M Paul Emanuel. I liked the dark little Frenchman with his moods and great heart. And then … then someone kicked my puppy. Someone took my beautiful strawberry cupcake and stamped on it in a muddy pool.

Villette, it has been said, is a largely autobiographical account of the Author’s life. Poor Charlotte Brontë. How deeply you felt. But this isn’t a recounting of her life, ‘tis the recounting of an adventure I went on in one of her books.

I’m afraid that I can’t be much of an intellectual book lover. Not for me is it to praise the prose or the endless wanderings of unhappiness and ten such gloomy moods. Not for me to relish each paragraph and delight in each beautifully turned poetic phrase.

Oh no.

You see, I reached the end … and I, well, I wasn’t pleased with it. At all.

I’d read Jane Eyre, you see, and I thought that all the misery of Villette would result in a worthy ending. An ending in which all the heartache and loneliness would be soothed by a gleam of happiness and the promise of future peace from pain.

Yeah. About that.

I am a reader who enjoys light heartedness. I can take sadness in a book as long as it is tempered with a little happiness to contrast. I like bittersweet endings. I like realistic ones.

That said, Villette (and its ending) … wasn’t for me.

Perhaps when I am in a dreadfully depressed mood, I will pick the book up again. But otherwise I won’t, for on the contrary, I’m sure it will send me into a dreadfully depressed mood.

I finished that final page and the cleverness of the end was lost to me. I ranted. I raved at anyone who could hear. “Five hundred pages!” I said in disbelief, my voice ringing with a mixture of outraged sorrow and wrath. “Five hundred pages and-“ [Here you must insert incoherent rantings of the troubled mind of a person who had dedicated their weekend to a book which wasn’t quite what they expected.]

I’m sure Villette will continue to be a classic. Well and good. But I have only so much time on this earth and I do not wish to spend it in deep, dark depression reading of nuns in attics or … or … shipwrecks. (That shipwreck!)

It may well be the path of the intellectual to read such books. It may be that the true intelligent reader will revel in the wonder of Villette and bask in the glory of the Brontës.

Reader, I haven’t the heart for it.

I can’t cultivate happiness (as Dr Bretton suggests) but I sure as potatoes can fling a gloomy book across the room.

Look ‘ee here, you too can, er, enjoy Villette – for free here and for your bookshelves here.

4 thoughts on “Recountings – Villette: an Adverse Reaction”

  1. Hi! Just stopping by from your interview on Homeschool Authors. I live in Oklahoma and was homeschooled myself. 🙂

    While bumbling about your (charming!) blog, I started reading your thoughts on Villette. Now — I love reading good classic literature, but Villette is one I’ve never even heard of before. Hmm. Not often I run into this situation, you see. Not sure that I would particularly care for the book, based on your reaction though — but at least I’ve now have learned a little bit another classic.

    Off to explore a bit more on your blog!

    1. Hello and welcome : )

      I know, I read Jane Eyre and was expecting something of the same but … oh well. You can’t win ’em all. But perhaps it is one of those classics which either inspires great hate (or something thereabouts) or great love.

      You live in Oklahoma? I’m afraid my only familiarity with your state is the musical of the same name … which probably isn’t the greatest thing to go by 😀

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