Villette - Charlotte Brontë, Margaret Smith, Herbert Rosengarten
I don't know what to say about this book. It's been a week since I finished it, and I can't stop stewing about it. It started off interesting enough, but I was initially afraid that as Lucy's circumstances changed, the most interesting part and characters of the story were left behind in Bretton, leaving me with the hope that the frequently used device of coincidence would bring them back into Lucy's life. The book got exceedingly slow once Lucy settled into her life in Villette, and the pace did not really pick up until about 2/3 of the way through. There were a few moments before then where I found the book unputdownable, but I could tell the story would not unfold the way I wanted it to, so these bits of the story always felt anti-climactic. Specifically, I refer to how Lucy seemed to hope more than friendship from Dr. John.

It wasn't until M. Emmanuel's odd behavior toward Lucy became more frequent that I felt the story really got going. Oh, the sparks that would have ignited between the two if Lucy had had any of Jane Eyre's fire! I admire the skill with which Ms. Bronte introduced us to repulsive men, and leaving the readers (the female ones at least) head over heels in love with them at the end.

I just don't know what to make of the ending, though. I am a sappy, romantic optimist by nature, so when Ms. Bronte said "to leave sunny imaginations hope . . . . conceive . . . the fruition of return . . . . picture union and a happy succeeding life," that's exactly what I did. It wasn't until I started reading other reviews that I realized I might have misread it. After overcoming the machinations of the "secret junta" and waiting three years, to know Lucy would never get her happily ever after with Paul is just to cruel to fathom!

It was like reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles all over again: being brought on this beautiful journey only to have all hope wrenched away.

I've seen many comment that Ms. Bronte's constant censure of Catholicism detracts from the story. I'm Catholic, and this did not bother me nearly as much as the constant use of French. Entire conversations were conducted in French, and if there hadn't been notes in the back of the book providing translations, it would have severely impacted my ability to enjoy the book. My copy of The Professor did not have translations for the French contained therein, and my reading of that short tome was slowed considerably by having to Google the translations. It's quite challenging trying to hold a book open with one hand while trying to type text in a foreign language with the other.