Hailed as Charlotte Brontë’s “finest novel” by Virginia Woolf, Villette is the timeless semi-autobiographical tale of Lucy Snowe. Left with no family and no money, Lucy goes against her own timid nature and travels to the small city of Villette, France, where she becomes a school teacher in Madame Beck’s school for girls. During her stay, she falls in love—twice—and discovers an independent, inner strength rarely seen in women of her time.
Charlotte Brontë's Villette follows protagonist Lucy Snowe as she bounces from one career to another. First a servant, then a teacher, the hapless Snowe is besotted by family tragedy and doomed romance. Eloquent performer Davina Porter imbues the hard-working Snowe with solemnity tinged by optimism. Indeed, as an unwed, working woman in 19th-century Europe, Snowe must struggle to define herself against the prevailing gender codes of her day. Porter, known for her painstaking attention to historical detail, captures the mannerisms and conventions of Brontë's characters, lending context and veracity to this striking case study of a Victorian woman’s prospects for love, happiness, and independence.
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This is a classic and worth reading for that alone. It also gives a social history.
For me it was spoilt by unenthusiastic reading and by not including a translation of some of the most important parts of the text which was, at times, in French. I have heard this done by footnote references and this would only be needed where the French is relevant to the plot etc.