I’m having a hard time knowing where to start with this post. I finally finished Villette this afternoon, while my youngest daughter sat next to me counting down the seconds until I would play a game with her (“Just give me two minutes! I need to finish this!”), so the ending was a bit rushed for me. Then I had to go back and read it again (twice) because I kept asking myself what had just happened.
I’m still not sure. My best guess is that Brontë purposefully left the ending ambiguous to allow the reader to end the story in the way they wanted. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, with its choice of alternate endings. I do think that Brontë wanted the reader to go away with a strong image of what was (to her) the most important outcome of the story–not the romantic one, but one that showed our heroine Lucy Snowe ending up a happy, independent woman.
Despite the focus of Volume III on matters of the heart, and the various twists and turns involving other characters (the ghostly NUN! The irrepressible Ginevra! The domineering Madame Beck!), I think it’s the character of Lucy herself who is the focal point of the novel and that will stay with me after having read it. Despite it carrying the name of the town, Villette is really mostly about Lucy, an exploration of one ordinary woman’s desire to make a life for herself–to find someone and something in the world that she can call her own, having been born into a life that granted her no favors.
There are so many layers to this book, from classical allusions to French phrases, so many themes that are explored and such richness of language. It’s a book that really deserves to be read more than once, and at leisure, and I definitely will be going back to it someday. But for this first reading, I’m so glad that I had a chance to share the experience with bookish friends. Thanks so much to Jaclyn and A.M.B. for reading along with me.
Their thoughts on Volume III: