Thursday, February 17, 2011

Villette Read-a-Long: Week Two

In case you've forgotten, I'm participating in the Villette-Read-a-Long hosted by Wallace over at Unputdownables.  This week we read chapters 6-11.  Here's the schedule for the next coming weeks if you want to join us/catch up (which you should!)


Week #/ dates :: Chapters to Read
Week One/ February 1st-7th :: ch. 1-5 (i.e. read chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)
Week Two/ February 8th-14th :: ch. 6-11
Week Three/ February 15th-21st :: ch. 12-17
Week Four/ February 22nd-28th :: ch. 18-22
Week Five/ March 1st-March 7th :: ch. 23-27
Week Six/ March 8th-March 14th :: ch. 28-32
Week Seven/ March 15th-March 21st :: ch. 33-37
Week Eight/ March 22-March 28th :: ch. 38-42

Okay, for only six chapters a TON of stuff has happened to our pal Lucy Snowe.


So when we left Lucy she was in London, all alone and trying to figure out what to do next.  She decides to head off to Villette in France to find a job as a governess or teacher.  On the voyage over she meets Ginerva Fanshawe, possibly the most annoying girl ever, who tells her about a boarding school and mentions the headmistress, Madame Beck who's in need of a governess for her kids.

In France, Lucy's more alone than ever in a country where she doesn't speak the language.  She finds an inn but there are strange folk about and heads off the next day to Villette.  In Villette, Lucy discovers some idiot didn't bring her trunk, but, again, Elle ne parele pas francais (I hope that means "she doesn't speak French" because that's what the online translator gave me).  A handsome stranger comes to her rescue and, seriously, it's like a scene from my life.  Handsome strangers are always coming up asking, "do you need some assistance?" and I have to beat them off with a stick.  It's a curse.

Anyway, he points her to an inn and she's stalked by two mustachioed men and flees into a nearby house she thinks is the inn.  (Note to Lucy: Good instinct.  Never trust a mustachioed man.) Low and behold she ends up in front of Madame Beck's house and Beck says "you want a job even though I don't speak English and you don't speak French?  SURE!" So Lucy has a place to stay, though Beck is pretty paranoid and spies on everyone and goes through Lucy's clothes and personal things when she's asleep.  Maybe she wouldn't be so paranoid if she didn't just hire random people off the street who show up at her doorstep late and night and don't even have references, but that's just my opinion.

Lucy's settling in and things are going okay.  One day a teacher doesn't show up so Beck asks Lucy to fill in.  She's totally throwing her to the wolves because the girls pretty much start rioting the second Lucy shows her face.  But Lucy is a badass.  She pinpoints the school bully and shoves her in a closet.  Even Beck gives her the thumbs up.  The girls warm up to Lucy.  Even annoying Ginerva who goes to this school.  She and Lucy start hanging out a little bit, even though she finds the girl just as annoying as I do.  Ginerva tells her about some secret boyfriend who she treats like dirt and won't even call him by his real name instead calling him "Isidore."  Lucy pretty much frowns on the entire thing and tells her to break it off.  Obviously, Ginerva heeds this sage advice and lives happily ever after (/sarcasm)

Anyway, Lucy's still helping out with Beck's kids, two of whom seem okay despite having the Snow Queen as their mother, but one is a klepto and kind of a psychopath.  One of them gets sick and Dr. John is called.  Shocker!  Dr. John is the handsome stranger who helped Lucy find an inn (which I have to say, did he really "help" her?  He walked her across the park and then left her instead of walking her to the inn and she almost got attacked by those mustachioed men.  Would it kill you to walk a few more blocks, Dr. J?)  Of course everyone is totally in love with Dr. J.  Even the Snow Queen.  He, on the other hand, is writing love notes and hiding away in rooms with some chick named Rosine, who we know nothing about other than her name and I guess is she's cute and giggles a lot.

My Thoughts:

Where to even begin?  So much happened I feel like I need four posts just to cover it all.  Can I just say first of all that most of the guys in this book are kind of idiots?  You've got the boatman that tries and succeeds in swindling Lucy (she just gives him the money rather than argue with the jerk), the guy who loses her trunk, and Dr. John who's dumb enough not to fall for Lucy the second he meets her and then just kind of half-asses delivering her to the inn.  We better be getting some better male characters.  And soon.

I really think my admiration and love for Lucy grows with each chapter.  She feels real and has such contradictory emotions and actions, but it works.  She's brave, but cautious, hopeful but practical, confident but insecure.  She's more daring than she gives herself credit for.  I mean, moving to a foreign country without a job, a friend, or even the ability to speak the language?  Impressive.  I find myself relating to a lot of her inner monologues.  Even if she's *gasp* a Protestant.  I found the passage where girls weren't allowed to walk alone with her and chat when everyone found that out kind of amusing.

On the other hand, Ginerva?  I want to smack her.  I thought I couldn't like her any less than when we first meet her and she's giving Lucy these long monologues about how dumb she is, but then we see her at school and she's toying with some guy's heart and taking his gifts without a second thought.  If this mystery man turns out to be Dr. J I'm going to be pissed.  I don't know who this Rosine girl is, but John, if you're going after Ginerva as well, you're dead to me.

There was a passing reference to a "Charlotte" in one chapter (I've taken out my post it and forgotten the page).  I think it referred to her being "on the brink of romance" and I'm curious if this is a moment of self-reflection for Bronte.  Maybe I'm being too literal, but it made me think twice.  So many of Lucy's moments of isolation and loneliness you can tell are real emotions of Bronte's, having just lost her sisters.  It makes Lucy's plight and aloneness in the world all the more profound and unsettling.

Madame Beck is also an interesting character that I'm interested to see more of.  She seems to regard a lack of passion and emotion as positive qualities in herself and in Lucy, but Dr. John has got her practically giggling like a schoolgirl (well, as much as someone like her can).  Though, seriously, Madame B, let's maybe take a second look at our hiring/firing practices.  Going through the pockets of your newly hired employee AFTER you let them sleep in a room with your kids, might not end well one of these days.

There's so much other stuff to talk about, but I feel like I've rambled enough and only want to know one more thing:  When does crazy Polly show up in Villette? 

Oh, that, and I really need to pick up an edition that has translations for all the French because at first I was just thinking it was okay since I would just feel as lost as Lucy but now she's proficient and I'm still too lazy to open a French-English dictionary.

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