My experience reading this book is really best described in stages. Stage 1, the beginning of the book, was good. I liked the set up, I was getting familiar with the characters, and then comes Stage 2, in which all the characters except the narrator abruptly dissapear.
That would be fine except for the fact that the author had really given me no reason at all to care about the narrator up to this point. In fact, I thought that another character named Polly was the one that we were supposed to focus on (I also liked her best). I may have mentioned this before, but, for me, a huge part of any book is the characters, especially the main character. If I don’t like the main character, the book is basically sunk. In this case, I didn’t care about the main character, perhaps because there was so little revealed about her. Thus, I was thrown off course for basically the entirety of Stage 2.
Stage 3 is where things are gradually beginning to get better, but it doesn’t really pick up until Stage 4, the last 50 or so pages at which point I found it difficult to put the book down. So that’s good, but I’m not sure that those 50 pages can entirely make up for the fact that the plot was SO SLOW to develop. I should not be wondering what the real plot is supposed to be when I’m halfway through the book. Sometimes I can take slowness (I am, after all, still reading Clarissa, practically the longest, slowest book of all time), but in this case I just wasn’t happy about it.
It probably also didn’t help that I didn’t particularly care for a certain character that I’m sure I was supposed to like by the end. Nor did it help that I can’t speak a word of French (little bits of it pop up frequently, usually in dialogue). And it especially didn’t help that my dislike of the main character was exacerbated when she started narrating things like this:
“…a subtle essence of Romanism pervaded every arrangement: large sensual indulgence (so to speak) was permitted by way of counterpoise to jealous spiritual restraint. Each min was being reared in slavery; but, to prevent reflection from dwelling on this fact, every pretext for physical recreation was seized and made the most of. There, as elsewhere, the CHURCH strove to bring up her children robust in body, feeble in soul, fat, ruddy, hale, joyous, ignorant, unthinking, unquestioning.”
And then she goes on to compare this to the terms that the devil offers to people in exchange for worshipping him. REALLY? No matter what your religion, I’m sure you can see the offense in that. As a Catholic myself, I was personally offended. Very highly.
So, I’ve decided to give this book a rating of 2 1/2 stars, which puts it just under the average book. I went back and forth a bit, considering bumping it up to 3 stars, but Stage 2 was just too long. If the portions I enjoyed would have been a greater part of the book, it might have made it there. As is, I’m disappointed to find that it wasn’t nearly as good as Jane Eyre.
- LT Group Read: Villette (dste9.wordpress.com)
- Villette Reflections 1: Where’s the Plot? (dste9.wordpress.com)
- Villette Reflections 2: It Gets Better (dste9.wordpress.com)
- Villette-Charlotte Brontë (akilollipop.wordpress.com)