June 12, 2010

Review: "Villette" by Charlotte Bronte

I cry in anguish, "Oh Villette, Villette, Villette!"

It was a feeling that came upon me as I read this novel; the palpable feeling of—

The cold grey storms of the fall and winter, the relentless building winds, the rain pounding against the window—those dark and dreary days of loneliness—all of the losses have brought you a smothering and almost overwhelming mantle of grief. You see, and write of, the Love around you, but feel the throbbing ache, day after day, night after night, of never receiving Love in return.

I lost count of the tears that fell as I read your account, Miss Lucy Snowe; or, should I call you, Miss Charlotte?

This novel, this Villette, like an arrow fletched fair, flew true, oh so true, and pierced your beating heart; and from that mortal wound poured the secrets of your soul, your inner-most being; laid bare for all to see. The incalculable loss of your older sisters, then Branwell, your dearest Emily, and finally quiet little Anne. This towering testament to loneliness, to sorrow, swept me, your Reader, relentlessly through the unimagined torrent of your human emotions—your grief, your fears, your reserved passion, your quiet grace, steadfast loyalty, and your resolute strength.

I felt guilty as I read, Little Woman, looking over my shoulder at every pause; afraid that you should find me picking the lock of your secret diary; spellbound as I turned the pages, one after the other, reading your most intimate, personal, and painful thoughts and the passionate feelings that poured forth onto the page. Intensely captivated by the dialog between your Passion and your Reason, the conversations between your Imagination and your Matter; but I read on. Until it became too much; I averted my eyes, and I wept.

As I sit here, writing these words, I am absolutely overwhelmed. I don’t know that I have ever read a book that has moved me quite like Charlotte Bronte’s final novel, Villette. A timeless and moving experience from its first words, to its final “Farewell.”

I am without words, Little Woman. I know this though, Miss Lucy Snowe, Miss Charlotte Bronte, I shall Love you always.

In tribute to the commitment you made to all who have read, or will read, this personal ‘Testament’ of yours over the ages, may your own words prove prophetic—

Proof of a life to come must be given. In fire and in blood do we trace the record throughout nature. In fire and in blood does it cross our own experience. Sufferer, faint not through terror of this burning evidence. Tired wayfarer, gird up thy loins, look upward, march onward. Pilgrims and brother mourners, join in friendly company. Dark through the wilderness of this world stretches the way for most of us; equal and steady be our tread; be our cross our banner. For staff we have His promise, whose ‘word is tried, whose way is perfect:’ for present hope His providence, ‘who gives the shield of salvation, whose gentleness makes great;’ for final home His bosom, who ‘dwells in the height of Heaven;’ for crowning prize a glory, exceeding and eternal.”

Farewell, Little Woman, fare thee well.

Read this novel! It is intensely autobiographical, and probably gives the reader much more insight into the mind, heart, and soul of Charlotte Bronte than the biographies written by Elizabeth Gaskell (1857) and Margaret Lane (1953), or the numerous scholarly works that have been written and published. This was an amazing book. Highly recommended

1 comment:

  1. Very nicely put- and I mean nicely in the Victorian sense of actually nice, not just as a word to describe a pleasant feeling I can't otherwise name. Charlotte is my favorite Bronte.