So the other day, while reading this book, I tweeted two comments:
Villette by Charlotte Bronte makes you feel hollow and lonely. In a bad way. :( #brontefail
Poor Charlotte Bronte. She must have been a very angry person. Sublimated angry, but angry.
Largely that sums up my personal feelings about this book.
I don't want to say Jane Eyre is a happy book, that would be silly. It isn't. It's a frequently sad, often scary book. But, if nothing else, there is at the end a feeling of catharsis, of closure. This book didn't have that at all. It was a strange experience, really, because the book felt too modern for Charlotte Bronte - modern novels have less of a tendency to insist on tidiness, less affection for things we can comprehend. I didn't need a modern novel, this week, I needed an old novel that I could cuddle into and feel things you aren't allowed to feel in the modern world.
That being said, my entire review will probably be insanely biased, but I will quietly make the argument that this book was not as great as I had hoped it would be, independent of my current mental state. First of all, C Bronte is not little Ms Subtle, by any stretch. You usually pretty much can guess at what it is she wants you to think. And she really seems to want you to like the main character. Only I didn't. The main character was bitter, angry, and sour, and she never really improved her temperament throughout the book. Since the main theme of the book was her search for happiness, this was kind of frustrating, because you didn't like her well enough to really want her to be happy. You don't necessarily want her to win.
Secondly, the book was very snippy. It read like a bitter, bigoted person speaking, the whole time - she makes nasty remarks about Catholics, Irish, and ESPECIALLY the French, throughout the whole book. I understand, some of this is the time period, and I can accept that. It wasn't that she had a bias, it's that she seemed to revel in it. The voice was a voice that was looking for something to hate.
Finally, and probably most difficultly for me, you kind of get the feeling, reading this book, that Charlotte Bronte doesn't like you, personally, the reader. She seems to be telling the story mostly for her own sake, and to think of the reader as a necessary evil. Some of the surprise twists in the book come through as sneering looks from the narrator, laughing at you for not catching on earlier. Some of the passages seem to irritatedly mince on through prose that the author seems tired of, as if the narrator wishes you' just keep up, and stop asking questions, so she could tell you what she really wanted to say.
All this would, again, be really interesting, if it felt like it was executed well. But it feels like it was executed on accident. I really don't think Ms B MEANT us to feel like she was an angry, bitter writer. But, the thing is, after this book, I feel like she was. And I couldn't shake that feeling, despite my sincere desire to do so.
I'm not saying I'm sorry I read it. The book was, if nothing else, a far more honest portrait of Charlotte than Jane Eyre was. Charlotte always seems to identify with her characters, and so you feel this strange frustration in this book, like she feels compelled to beat and damage herself with all the miserable pieces of life. I look back on Jane Eyre, now, and I see the voice of someone who WISHES her life had been that grand and sweeping, who was writing her dreams. This book isn't grand or sweeping. It's about the banalities of everyday, honest, miserable life, and you feel this sense of confined claustrophobia. Poor Charlotte, such a big mind, in such a small alley of life for living...
BTW - the image is of Lucy Snow, an anime character who I THINK is a fairy. Ironic.