Thursday, March 3, 2011

Villette by Charlotte Bronte Read-a-long Week Four

This is the Week Four of the read-a-long of Villette by Charlotte Bronte hosted by Wallace at her blog, Unputdownables. This week's reading includes chapters (16-20).

I didn't post my summary and thoughts for week three and I sincerely apologize to Wallace and the other read-a-long participants. My beautiful Gustave had just died and there were some other stressful things I had to deal with (I think you've all been in a similar position) But I'm back with Lucy Snowe's story this week!

Summary: (this section contains spoilers)
Last week’s reading finished with Lucy in a bad spot. She passed out in the street, delirious with fever It was a dark, stormy night and Lucy was in a part of Villette she didn't know. Despair and loneliness had caused her to flee Rue Fossette (everybody else was on a 2 month holiday and Lucy was alone in the big house) in search of solace. She stumbled into a Catholic church where she spoke with a priest. On her way back to the Rue Fossette she became hopelessly lost. As the weather worsened, Lucy became upset and disoriented at which time she fainted.

In this week's chapters, Lucy wakes groggily believing she's in the Rue Fossette. But she discovers she’s in a strange room in a strange house. As she continues to look around, Lucy recognizes most of the furnishings and decorations in the room. "Strange to say, old acquaintance were all about me, and "auld lang syne" smiled out of every nook." (p. 186 signet classic). Lucy falls asleep and wakes in a bedroom which she also recognizes. Everything she sees reminds her of Bretton and then her godmother, Mrs. Bretton walks into the room! Mrs. Bretton doesn’t immediately recognize Lucy. It's not until a little while later, after tea, that Lucy introduces herself to Mrs. Bretton and her son, Graham. But the bigger surprise is that Graham Bretton is Dr. John and Lucy has known this for quite a while! But she never revealed herself to Dr. John.

Mrs. Bretton and Lucy are quite happy to be back in each other's company and spend many hours together in front of the fire with Dr. John, too. Lucy stays at Bretton resting and restoring her strength for the remainder of the school holiday and a couple of more weeks thanks to Mrs., Bretton's intervention with Madame Beck.

Dr. John talks to Lucy, almost exclusively, about Ginevra Fanshawe whom he's absolutely smitten with. Lucy loses her patience with him one day telling him he's wonderful in every aspect except when it come to Ginevra. Of course, she feels badly about this especially when she realizes she's hurt him. Lucy asks him to forgive her. Dr. John tells Lucy he is grateful for her warm words and well-meaning wishes. Once they make up, Dr. John continues to talk about Ginevra incessantly!

While Lucy is at Bretton and once she's strong enough, Mrs. Bretton and Dr. John plan excursions for her most days. As a result, Lucy sees more of Villette in two weeks than she has since she arrived and enjoys herself! Lucy visits a gallery one day and sits on a bench in front of a painting. "Cleopatra". In the painting a large-size woman is reclining on a couch wearing a gown that barely covers her. Lucy isn't impressed by the painting and is looking at others on the wall around it when Monsieur Paul approaches her. He insists that she get up immediately and walk away from the painting with him. Lucy, amused, obliges him. She soon finds herself, at M. Paul’s behest, in front of four paintings that depict women's stations in life and considers them very boring. Lucy and M. Paul engage in fun dialogue in which she teases him a bit and he acts shocked at the behavior of English women.

In today’s final chapter, Mrs. Bretton informs Lucy that they are going to attend a concert, a grand affair in the large hall of the principal musical society followed by a charitable auction. Mrs. Bretton insists that Lucy be measured for a new dress. Lucy is somewhat horrified when she sees that the dress she's too wear is pink! She puts it on with some black drapery but isn't comfortable until Dr, John barely nods at her appearance rather than make a big deal out of Lucy wearing a pink dress!

My Thoughts: One of the aspects of Villette I'm most enjoying is getting to know Lucy more and more. She is pleased and very happy to be back in touch with Mrs. Bretton. But it saddens me that Lucy’s initially afraid to be too happy about the reunion. As happy as she is to have her friends back, she’s unsure of how close the friendship will be and is afraid to make too much of it. I felt badly for Lucy when she cried herself to sleep the first night after discovering she was in her godmother's home. But when Lucy realizes that Mrs. Bretton’s very happy to have Lucy back in her life, I enjoyed reading how happy Lucy was and I liked reading how she seemed to enjoy life a bit more.

I also thought it sad that Lucy didn't introduce herself to Dr. John when she realized he was Graham Bretton all those months back at the Rue Fossette. She felt he wouldn't care who she was. I hadn't realized she was so insecure in some respects. But it also reminded me that she wasn't close to Graham in the days when she visited Bretton. He seems to have grown up to be a nicer man than it seemed he would become.

I thought it was great when Lucy became angry with Dr. John and told him so. I liked seeing her assert herself. My only concern is I think her strong feelings, both her anger and her flattery of him, signify that she's falling in love with him (if she hasn't already). She sings his praises many a time throughout these chapters. I want to say something to her, such as, "This is the same man who adores Ginevra Fanshawe no matter how she treats him!".

I was happy to see that Graham grew up to be a nice man with a good career. He has a good relationship with his mother, too. I enjoyed how they teased each other! He respects Mrs. Bretton and takes good care of her. He was a spoiled boy so I wasn't expect him to grow up so well.

I also enjoy how Lucy is with M. Paul. He doesn’t put her off, irritate or scare her even when he’s gruff and rude. For some reason, she understands that he means well and isn’t offended by his manner. I think this is another example of how good Lucy is at understanding people and adapting to them. It’s a great quality to have especially when she has to rely on her own ingenuity and skill to get through life rather than the help of family or friends.

I was thrilled when Lucy wore the pink dress to the concert! It’s such a nice change from the conservative, dark colors she favors. (Now if I could only rid the image of Gwyneth Paltrow in the pink Ralph Lauren ball gown she wore when she won the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love!)


  1. No apologies at all, we all totally understand. You had a difficult week!

    I know... I feel for Lucy as well. It's almost as if she's scared to get her hopes up about anything. And we all know that happens when you've had terrible things occur. But I am really looking forward to seeing if good things DO happen for Lucy. I hope so!

  2. I look forward to reading this one!

  3. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. No worries about last week-- glad to see you back.

    I have to agree with you about Lucy and her decision not to introduce herself to Dr. John. In a strange way, though, I feel like that decision told me more about Lucy (and how she views herself and the world) than most of the rest of the novel.

  4. My condolences on your loss as well....I hope you are doing okay. If ever you want to "talk", let me know. Unfortunately, I am no stranger to loss and death.

    I too feel sorry for Lucy while reading. Certainly when she cries herself to sleep, also when it is so apparent how alone she feels. It almost feels like she will not allow herself pleasure or intimacy with others - why?

  5. Lucy seems to have a hard time ever enjoying herself too much or letting go. Remember how much she enjoyed when she was acting in the play for the fete but immediately after shut down those feelings? I think you're right that she's afraid that these good things will disappear.