Villette (Modern Library Classics Series)

Villette (Modern Library Classics Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375758508
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/2001
Series: Modern Library Series
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 822,682
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Charlotte Brontë (18161855) grew up in a remote parsonage on the moors of Yorkshire, where she invented fantastical stories alongside her sisters, Emily and Anne, and brother, Branwell. In 1847, the sisters published their first novels, Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily), and Agnes Grey (Anne), under male pseudonyms to commercial and critical success. Tragically, all three of Charlotte’s siblings died within the next two years. Left alone, Charlotte wrote two more novels, Shirley and Villette, while caring for her ill father. She married in 1854 and died during pregnancy shortly after.

Date of Birth:

April 21, 1816

Date of Death:

March 31, 1855

Place of Birth:

Thornton, Yorkshire, England

Place of Death:

Haworth, West Yorkshire, England

Education:

Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire; Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head

Read an Excerpt

My godmother lived in a handsome house in the clean and ancient town of Bretton. Her husband's family had been residents there for generations, and bore, indeed, the name of their birthplace—Bretton of Bretton: whether by coincidence, or because some remote ancestor had been a personage of sufficient importance to leave his name to his neighbourhood, I know not.

When I was a girl I went to Bretton about twice a year, and well I liked the visit. The house and its inmates specially suited me. The large peaceful rooms, the well-arranged furniture, the clear wide windows, the balcony outside, looking down on a fine antique street, where Sundays and holidays seemed always to abide—so quiet was its atmosphere, so clean its pavement—these things pleased me well.

One child in a household of grown people is usually made very much of, and in a quiet way I was a good deal taken notice of by Mrs. Bretton, who had been left a widow, with one son, before I knew her; her husband, a physician, having died while she was yet a young and handsome woman.

She was not young, as I remember her, but she was still handsome, tall, well-made, and though dark for an English-woman, yet wearing always the clearness of health in her brunette cheek, and its vivacity in a pair of fine, cheerful black eyes. People esteemed it a grievous pity that she had not conferred her complexion on her son, whose eyes were blue—though, even in boyhood, very piercing—and the colour of his long hair such as friends did not venture to specify, except as the sun shone on it, when they called it golden. He inherited the lines of his mother's features, however; also her good teeth, her stature (or the promise of her stature, for he was not yet full-grown), and, what was better, her health without flaw, and her spirits of that tone and equality which are better than a fortune to the possessor.

In the autumn of the year——I was staying at Bretton, my godmother having come in person to claim me of the kinsfolk with whom was at that time fixed my permanent residence. I believe she then plainly saw events coming, whose very shadow I scarce guessed; yet of which the faint suspicion sufficed to impart unsettled sadness, and made me glad to change scene and society.

Time always flowed smoothly for me at my godmother's side; not with tumultuous swiftness, but blandly, like the gliding of a full river through a plain. My visits to her resembled the sojourn of Christian and Hopeful beside a certain pleasant stream, with "green trees on each bank, and meadows beautified with lilies all the year round." The charm of variety there was not, nor the excitement of incident; but I liked peace so well, and sought stimulus so little, that when the latter came I almost felt it a disturbance, and wished rather it had still held aloof.

One day a letter was received of which the contents evidently caused Mrs. Bretton surprise and some concern. I thought at first it was from home, and trembled, expecting I know not what disastrous communication: to me, however, no reference was made, and the cloud seemed to pass.

The next day, on my return from a long walk, I found, as I entered my bedroom, an unexpected change. In addition to my own French bed in its shady recess, appeared in a corner a small crib, draped with white; and in addition to my mahogany chest of drawers, I saw a tiny rosewood chest. I stood still, gazed, and considered.

"Of what are these things the signs and tokens?" I asked. The answer was obvious. "A second guest is coming; Mrs. Bretton expects other visitors."

On descending to dinner, explanations ensued. A little girl, I was told, would shortly be my companion: the daughter of a friend and distant relation of the late Dr. Bretton's. This little girl, it was added, had recently lost her mother; though, indeed, Mrs. Bretton ere long subjoined, the loss was not so great as might at first appear. Mrs. Home (Home it seems was the name) had been a very pretty, but a giddy, careless woman, who had neglected her child, and disappointed and disheartened her husband. So far from congenial had the union proved, that separation at last ensued—separation by mutual consent, not after any legal process. Soon after this event, the lady having over-exerted herself at a ball, caught cold, took a fever, and died after a very brief illness. Her husband, naturally a man of very sensitive feelings, and shocked inexpressibly by too sudden communication of the news, could hardly, it seems, now be persuaded but that some over-severity on his part—some deficiency in patience and indulgence—had contributed to hasten her end. He had brooded over this idea till his spirits were seriously affected; the medical men insisted on travelling being tried as a remedy, and meanwhile Mrs. Bretton had offered to take charge of his little girl. "And I hope," added my godmother in conclusion, "the child will not be like her mamma; as silly and frivolous a little flirt as ever sensible man was weak enough to marry. For," said she, "Mr. Home is a sensible man in his way, though not very practical: he is fond of science, and lives half his life in a laboratory trying experiments—a thing his butterfly wife could neither comprehend nor endure; and indeed," confessed my godmother, "I should not have liked it myself."

In answer to a question of mine, she further informed me that her late husband used to say, Mr. Home had derived this scientific turn from a maternal uncle, a French savant: for he came, it seems, of mixed French and Scottish origin, and had connections now living in France, of whom more than one wrote de before his name, and called himself noble.

That same evening at nine o'clock, a servant was despatched to meet the coach by which our little visitor was expected. Mrs. Bretton and I sat alone in the drawing-room waiting her coming; John Graham Bretton being absent on a visit to one of his schoolfellows who lived in the country. My godmother read the evening paper while she waited; I sewed. It was a wet night; the rain lashed the panes, and the wind sounded angry and restless.

"Poor child!" said Mrs. Bretton from time to time. "What weather for her journey! I wish she were safe here."

A little before ten the door-bell announced Warren's return. No sooner was the door opened than I ran down into the hall; there lay a trunk and some bandboxes, beside them stood a person like a nurse girl, and at the foot of the staircase was Warren with a shawled bundle in his arms.

"Is that the child?" I asked.

"Yes, miss."

I would have opened the shawl, and tried to get a peep at the face, but it was hastily turned from me to Warren's shoulder.

"Put me down, please," said a small voice when Warren opened the drawing-room door, "and take off this shawl," continued the speaker, extracting with its minute hand the pin, and with a sort of fastidious haste doffing the clumsy wrapping. The creature which now appeared made a deft attempt to fold the shawl; but the drapery was much too heavy and large to be sustained or wielded by those hands and arms. "Give it to Harriet, please," was then the direction, "and she can put it away." This said, it turned and fixed its eyes on Mrs. Bretton.


From the eBook edition.

Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss the character of Lucy Snowe. Do you find her to be an admirable heroine? What qualities do you like in her, or dislike? How do you think you would behave in her circumstances?

2. Writing to her publisher, Charlotte Brontë had this to say about Villette’s protagonist: “I consider that [Lucy Snowe] is both morbid and weak at times; her character sets up no pretensions to unmixed strength, and anybody living her life would necessarily become morbid.” What do you think of this appraisal? Do her “unheroic” qualities make her more sympathetic or less?

3. Virginia Woolf felt that Villette was Brontë’s “finest novel,” and speaking about Brontë, wrote that “All her force, and it is the more tremendous for being constricted, goes into the assertion, ‘I love,’ ‘I hate,’ ‘I suffer.’ ” What do you think Woolf means? Do you find this observation interesting, appealing, or moving?

4. Why do you think Brontë sets the narrative of Villette in a foreign country?

5. Explore the theme of education in Villette: What is the role of education in Lucy Snowe’s own life?

6. The conclusion of Villette is famously ambiguous (it was made purposefully so by Brontë). Do you find it a happy ending? A sad one?

Customer Reviews

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Villette 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 169 reviews.
jenieliser More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book! I absolutely love the character development. Everything about this book is intriguing. The plot was interesting, the ending okay. I prefer more solid, definite endings, but the journey to the end was well worth it. The character development is my favorite thing about this book. You see Lucy change over time. You see, more fantastically, this little appearingly annoying thing of a man turn into a wonderfully loving character that the reader cannot resist falling in love with. This is a great novel and I recommend reading it, even if just to trace the character developement and challenge whether or not you cannot fall in love with M. Paul. :)

i also recommend: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Persuasion, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Catherine-E-Chapman More than 1 year ago
I've enjoyed many aspects of Villette but if I hadn't vowed to complete and review it, I would probably have abandoned it partway through. I undertook to read Villette in the light of my passion for Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, my love of Charlotte's Jane Eyre and my enjoyment of Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey. (I'm generally fascinated by the Brontes.) However, the undertaking came after aborted attempts to read both Charlotte's The Professor and Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall. And I found Villette hard work (though ultimately worthwhile) for all the reasons that I abandoned the other two books. I guess it should be comforting to anybody who writes that great writers can have their lesser works. But, as a reader, you just want all their books to be as good as their best. So comparisons of Villette with Jane Eyre are unavoidable. What Villette has in common with Jane Eyre is that very immediate first person narrator. And Lucy Snowe is a vivid and strong narrator. She's also blessed with the moral superiority to be found in Jane Eyre. But Jane has, I think, a humility and vulnerability that Lucy doesn't really possess. Despite Lucy's emotional breakdown (the episode which, I believe, leads critics to suggest that Villette was influenced by CB's grief at the loss of her siblings), she remains –until the latter part of the novel– so coolly removed from the emotional problems of the other characters in the book (and so morally judgemental of them) as to alienate her from the reader. (In Jane Eyre, this doesn't happen.) I also have a problem with M. Paul as a hero – he's just so annoying and perverse for so much of the story! I couldn't see how any woman would be attracted to him. I struggled early in the book with the revelation that Dr John had been known to Lucy in her earlier life – if she'd recognised him why didn't she tell us? I enjoyed the final 100 pages much more than the rest of the book. There's an energy to the writing that's lacking earlier on and Lucy does appear more human towards the close of the narrative. However, 400 pages felt like a lot to wade through to achieve a state of fulfilment! Villette was Charlotte Bronte's final novel. Had it been a forerunner to Jane Eyre –had CB developed into a better writer through writing it– I would probably feel more resolved to my verdict on it. If you're interested in the Brontes it's worth reading Villette simply for the biographical insight it gives into Charlotte but otherwise I would sooner opt for another Nineteenth Century novel – there are so many great ones to choose from.
deborah197 More than 1 year ago
Kept waiting for it to get better. Heroine, Lucy, is very passive and submissive; she is very difficult to relate to. Not worth the time reading.
katknit More than 1 year ago
The heroine of this lesser known of Charlotte Bronte's novels is called Lucy Snowe, which means "light" and "cold". Thrown upon her own resources at the tender age of 14, Lucy sets out for France and, by the skin of her teeth, lands a job at a girls' school in Villete. As her name suggests, Lucy holds herself aloof from all the usual interests of young women. Coincidence and improbability plays major roles in the plot of this novel, and if the reader is intolerant of such, the book will not satisfy. Rich in symbolism, Villette serves as a metaphor for the lives of women in Victorian Europe. Particularly striking is the mystery of the spectral nun who appears in garret and garden cloister. For the modern reader, Villette suffers from too much "sermonizing." It's possible, however, to balance the religiosity with the humor invested in relatively minor characters, such as the proto-feminist Ginevra Fanshawe, who "has suffered less than any" other woman in Lucy's world. Ginevra is refreshingly, sometimes comedically, unrestricted by the conventions of her society. It requires but little imagination to hear the voice of Charlotte herself, who indeed lived much of her life in similar circumstances, in the thoughts and soliloquies of Lucy. In the end, Lucy's defensive remoteness is breached, but the reader is left to decide exactly how her story plays out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book because of Jane Eyre, but this book was ten times better than Jane Eyre ever will be. I finished reading it like a month ago, and yet i keep on thinking about it. the ending was strange, but undoubtably one of the best endings i've ever read. If you have any appreciation for outstanding literature, read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't see why Jane Eyre is more popular than Villette. Jane E. is a good book but I think Villette is ten times better. It is my favorite book, although it is very confusing and slow at parts.
Operetta More than 1 year ago
I had the great pleasure of reading Villette (brought about due to my love for Jane Eyre). I must confess that at first I was slightly disappointed in the book. Lucy Snowe is a difficult character to relate to due to her aloofness, and her narration in comparison lacked the passion that was found in Jane Eyre. This said, over the course of the novel, I began to enjoy it immensely. Lucy Snowe as a character seemed to remain in the back of one's thoughts; however, through various events her "icy" nature seems to revert, and the true beauty of her character is revealed. The plot itself can be somewhat droll - it is the memoirs of Snowe's life, and it lacks vivacity in some points of the narration (becoming most interesting when the fiery Paul Emmanuel arrives). The ending leaves mixed feelings, but as a whole the novel is a joy to read and very satisfying. Brontë's writing is superb! Her style flows effortlessly, and the wit she uses in conversations between characters (especially Snowe and Emmanuel) is wonderful. Overall, the book is excellent, and is potentially the best of Charlotte's work. For fans looking for a repeat Jane Eyre, it will not happen, and that may cause disappointment. Still, I must highly recommend it, and encourage its readers to stay with the first hundred pages - it gets much better!
mybabies2 More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book all the way through!!! Aside from not speaking or reading any french (I was able to ask a friend if I was curious)it was wonderful! A really great love story with a happy ending. I really would love to have read more about the story, too bad it was written so long ago.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love Jane Eyre, so I vowed to read all Charlotte Bronte's books. I have not been disapointed. Villette is an excellent specimen of literature and overlooked by too many people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of course there are parts that are captivating and delightfully written, but it is slow with long-winded sections that don't add much to the story line. It is a book written out of depression, everyone is happy except the heroine. In the end, after suffering with her through 456 pages the reader is even then denied an ultimate happiness. Yes, she has independence, but a life without love seems merely like a continuance of an existence in shadow.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Villette is my favorite over Jane Eyre. I think Charlotte Bronte was an incridibly deep writer who has and is continuing to awe me by her novels. This book is GREAT and I recommend it to anyone young or old.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Villette is my all time favourite novel. The strength and independence of Lucy Snowe made this story wonderful and enjoyable and despite a lonely sad childhood in England was able to make a success in Villette and like many of us struggles between career, independence and romance but it did work out fine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the story of Lucy was esqusite. She reminded me of me. And made me want to write my own novel, I love Villette and recommend it to anyone who is deep and eccentric.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't believe this book isn't more widely read! I thought it was marvelous. It is far more introspective and philisophical than Jane Eyre, but it is beautifully written. A true treasure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i am usually a speedy reader, but this book was so captivating i was forced to slw down and truly appreciate it. The book is about Lucy Snowe, a young woman out on her own, sworn to keep her feelings down-to not truly feel at all. But she does come in contact with things and people to incite her feelings, and the book is really about how she copes with being human. this book is a romance as well as a book about the human psyche. I recomend it to ANYONE.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a long time fan of Jane Eyre I hardly thought I'd be able to find an even better work. 'Villette' is an incredibly human story supported by wonderful characters. I will continue to read this book over and over.
PollyMoore3 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
You feel you are actually in this school. And all that repressed feeling...... An all-time favourite.
t1bnotown on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This story went on and on and on. For the most part it was a very slow read- I wasn't into the characters, not much happened for a long time, and, it just kept going for 556 pages! Lucy Snowe almost never stands up for herself, and I was rather frustrated with her early relationship with M. Paul. That got better at the very end, but still... Things took a long time to come together, and I have to admit that I chastised her many times for her inaction. I was also highly disturbed by the ending- this story is supposed to be somewhat autobiographical, which makes me wonder how that related to her biography. I kept wanting to change Lucy's actions- to make her stand up for herself, to explain things to her, to remind her that she is not some sort of worthless slug or something. So was Charlotte Bronte completely miserable during this period of her life? Don't read this if you expect something light or enjoyable...
cbl_tn on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I like Jane Eyre. I've read it at least twice, plus I've watched many of the film adaptations of the novel. However, after reading Villette, I could easily be persuaded that it, rather than Jane Eyre, is Charlotte Brontë's masterpiece. In Lucy Snowe, Brontë wrestles with the choices available to a single woman entirely without family to provide financial support and affection. This is not a story of the resilience of the human spirit, or of triumph over adversity; it's a story of endurance through spiritual and emotional suffering. Many of the details are based on incidents from Charlotte Brontë's life. I think she, like Lucy Snowe, viewed herself among life's unblessed:Some lives are thus blessed: it is God's will: it is the attesting trace and lingering evidence of Eden. Other lives run from the first another course. Other travellers encounter weather fitful and gusty, wild and variable--breast adverse winds, are belated and overtaken by the early closing winter night. Neither can this happen without the sanction of God, and I know that, amidst His boundless works, is somewhere stored the secret of this last fate's justice: I know that His treasures contain the proof as the promise of its mercy.I'm glad I didn't first read this book when I was younger. I wouldn't have been prepared for it. I wouldn't have cared much for the surface story, and I might have missed much of its depth. Now, it's the right book at the right time in my life. Highly recommended.
Luli81 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Who said the only good novel by Brontë was Jane Eyre? This one has more into it that our timeless heroine, some say it's a biographical book, and if it is...Charlotte I admire you even more than before!
jannief on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Wow - this book took me forever to read. I admire Charlotte Bronte's writing style, her word choices are wonderful. However, the story itself wasn't nearly as interesting as the back cover described. This is a semi-autobiographical book of Charlotte's life when she lived in Belgium. What a sad and lonely life it must have been. Lucy Snowe was the main character in this story and it starts when she was young (around 10) and living in England. The majority of the rest of the book takes place in the city of Villette where she serves as a teacher in a girls school. She meets up with people from her childhood and their company gives her some sort of small social life. Otherwise most of her time is spent at the school. There she meets and falls in love with an eccentric professor. This book is not nearly as enjoyable as "Jane Eyre" but I'm glad I read it. But I did find it quite tedious in many parts.
StoutHearted on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A surprising novel, since it starts out frustratingly slow. But it soon develops into a fine psychological novel with gothic themes thrown in for extra measure. The novel's heroine, Lucy Snowe, is an orphan sent to the care of her kindly godmother, but soon must make it out into the world on her own. With marriage not an option for someone of her class and background, she resigns herself to a life of dutiful work as a teacher, and sets off abroad for the fictional place of Labassecoeur to secure work. There, she is an outsider; far from home, speaking English where the townspeople all speak French, and given a position teaching spoiled rich girls, a rigid Protestant among Catholics. One of the instructors in charge at the school, Monsieur Paul, takes an interest in Lucy, and the two embark on a rocky friendship that blossoms in a hesitant romantic interest.A curious recurrance in the novel are the many coincidences that happen, often involving characters from the past. These people are initially concealed by the author under a different name until she chooses to reveal all to us. This can either be tolerated by the reader, or it will exasperate.But an interesting effect of the somewhat-reliable narrator is that the motif compliments the novel's interesting psychological evaluation of Lucy. We see her cling to her ideals of Protestantism and Englishness, while succumbing on a few occaisions to an intense emotional breakdown from her isolation, and even has a few ghost sightings! We see her lie to herself about her unrequited schoolgirl crush on a doctor, and struggle with her beliefs that love and marriage is not meant for women like her. Taken into her mind, we can sympathize with Lucy and also perceive things that she herself does not realize. We see her jealousy, her passion, her anguish in isolation and how it eventually leads to her breakdown.While without the thundering romance of "Jane Eyre," this novel retains the fierceness of love that slowly builds up to the end's climax. There is sweetness in the reservations between Lucy and Paul, even their jealousies become endearing. I reread this book several times, and still enjoy reading their scenes together. Sadly, "Villette" falls in the shadow if its more famous kin, "Jane Eyre," but should be read by any Bronte fan, who will recognize parts similar to Anne's "Agnes Grey" and Charlotte's "The Professor."
nittnut on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Similar in some ways to [Jane Eyre:], a young girl finds herself alone in the world and in need of an occupation. She takes all she has and travels to France and there finds work in a school. She is the narrator and the only one who can interpret the actions and feelings of the other characters in the book. She is perhaps a bit too introspective for my taste. There are two men who feature in her life, an old friend and son of her godmother, and the professor associated with the school where she teaches. After many ups and downs and long searching for love, or even a place to call home, she finally finds happiness (maybe, because it is left a little to the imagination) with the professor. I had a hard time really getting into this story. I liked [Jane Eyre:] much better.
Nickelini on LibraryThing 5 months ago
30. Villette, Charlotte Bronte Villette is a lengthy novel told by the duplicitous first person narrator, Lucy Snowe, about her life as an English governess in the faux Belgian city of Villette.What I Liked: Charlotte Bronte is truly writes beautifully, and the language in this book is delightful for its own sake. I also like the atmosphere created by the tension of the dark, almost gothic elements threatening the light. Even though Lucy Snowe's cagey, enigmatic narrative technique often drove me a little crazy, I did like how there was a lot that went unsaid in this novel. I also liked the proto-feminist statements and stance of the book.What I Didn't Like: This book drove me crazy. One problem is that it was simply too long--many times I found myself screaming inside "just get on with it!" Huge sections of the book were about Lucy Snowe judging other people, or being judged. Then I found myself screaming "stop being so damn judgmental and just get on with your lives!" And, as in Jane Eyre, there is a tremendous amount of surveillance going on--everyone is constantly watching the other and trying to control other's behaviors through surveillance. It's interesting how this combines with Lucy Snowe's layers of concealment (which actually makes me think it's an element of the novel that perhaps I like--at least it would make an interesting essay topic. But, yea!, I don't have to write an essay on Villette.) But I digress . . .And as in Jane Eyre, some of the plot developments were just too convenient (although, unlike Jane Eyre, they weren't as unintentionally comical). Although I get that Lucy Snowe is intentionally concealing facts in order to tell HER story, I think most readers would have liked more information about her past and how she came to be in this situation.Many readers today are annoyed or even offended by Bronte's commentary on Catholicism, and I can see their point. It's not just Catholics who she looks down on though, but anyone non-English. It seems very dated, although I suppose this book could be viewed as cultural commentary on its time and place.If so, then it gives me yet another reason to be happy that I didn't live back then--Lucy Snowe's was a most unpleasant world.Rating: Part of me sees this book as a 4 star read, but another really loud voice says 2. So I guess that makes it 3 stars out of 5.Recommended for: This one is only for the true-blue 19th century fiction fan.
atimco on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I picked up Villette after my recent reread of Jane Eyre; surely Charlotte Brontë's genius, so sure and strong in her famous Gothic classic, would not fail in this novel. It did not, but it is of a different kind. I am not disappointed exactly, but I am left a bit thoughtful about the merit of the book. This review will contain some spoilers.Villette is well known for being an autobiographical novel. Many of its events are drawn from Brontë's experiences when she lived in Brussels at the pensionnat of M. and Mme. Héger. Knowing this gave me additional interest; it always fascinates me to see how writers take the stuff of their lives and weave it into art. This story is narrated by Lucy Snowe, a young woman who leaves England after a unspecified family disaster of some kind. She finds a position at a pensionnat, a French school for young ladies, where she struggles to learn French and understand the culture around her. She achieves this by studying the girls at her school, her fellow teachers, and the owner, Madame Beck. Lucy Snowe is an interesting character. I found her less easy to like than Jane Eyre; she is cold and sensible and easily put upon. Though she is very observant of those around her and holds firmly to her moral convictions, she is passive in many ways and cannot perform if she is put on the spot. At one point in the story she muses on the vastly different ways her friends view her; some see her as shy and self effacing, others as passionate, and still others as crusty and harsh. She certainly has a wryness to her. By the end of the novel I was her friend, but not her passionate ally. We are constantly reminded what a "little man" is M. Paul, one of Lucy's fellow teachers. Brontë's portrayal of his character is fascinating. He is a terrible autocrat who loses his temper over the smallest things, but when he truly is sinned against, he is all patience and compassion. In some ways the relationship between M. Paul and Lucy reminded me of Jo March and Professor Bhaer in Alcott's Little Women, though with a distinctly darker cast. The other characters are excellent: Ginevra Fanshawe in particular is one of my favorites, not because I found her likeable but because Brontë apparently finds her fascinating, and delineates her nature so well that I felt I knew her too. I appreciate Brontë's ability to get down to the core of her characters, and have them interact believably with one another. The "mystery" of the story, the stock Gothic ghost running around the pensionnat at night, is certainly not the leading feature. I will say that Brontë certainly misled me; I thought it was someone else entirely! I would not have credited the perpetrator with that kind of ingenuity. But really it is only a sideshow to the more important things happening within Lucy. Brontë's dislike of Roman Catholicism is a major theme of the story. I found it incisive, perceptive, and merciless ¿ though she acknowledges some of its better qualities and creates some worthy characters who are Catholic. But Lucy sees too clearly to allow herself to be converted; she remains a Protestant and this, perhaps, is the ultimate reason a union with the Catholic M. Paul is never realized. It is projected and planned, but fate intervenes... Brontë's famously ambiguous ending is not impossible to unravel. Lucy's earlier statement, that some lives are meant to be happy while others are fated to sorrow, seems to come true. She feels herself fated to be excluded from the joyful tent of those blessed ones, as when she watches them from afar during a fête in the city. Despite the generally sad, heavy feel of the book, there were moments of humor when Brontë describes the ridiculousness of M. Paul or the girls in the school. Lucy's wry observations of the people around her hint at a sense of humor buried under the narrow and unhappy circumstances of her life. Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) preferred this book to Jane Eyre, and I can