Villette by Charlotte Bronte Read-a-Long Part 1

Unputdownables is hosting a Villette by Charlotte Bronte read-a-long for the next couple of months.  And this is the first week of discussion.

For this week, we had to read the first five chapters of the novel.

The narrator begins by talking of her godmother and her family in Bretton and how she enjoyed being at their house.  We soon learn in the first chapter that her godmother has agreed to take charge of a young girl, Paulina, who has lost her mother and whose father has been told to travel to calm his ailments and recover from grief.

Miss Lucy Snowe is our narrator and she loves to observe her family members and Paulina as they interact with one another and when they are alone.  She has a particular interest in Paulina (Polly) given that the young girl wants to accomplish so much without help, but is not tall enough to complete certain tasks on her own at least not without difficulty.  What’s intriguing is the relationship that blossoms between Mrs. Bretton’s son, Graham, and Paulina.  Without her father, she seems to be seeking another man to look up to and take care of, but Graham is a young man in school with his own priorities and friends, though he does enjoy spending time teasing Paulina.

There also are some similarities between Polly and Lucy in how they interact with others, seeming to want more attention, but unsure how to get it without seeming overly needy.  While Polly takes it to the needy extreme, Lucy often seems too aloof.

Alas, things change and Miss Snowe and Paulina must part company with the Brettons and face the next leg of their own journeys.  The narrator finds herself looking for engagement once at home and is offered one position with a neighbor in need of consistent assistance.  Brontë inserts some Gothic elements in the narration — especially the storms and Aurora Borealis — which provide readers with an atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

While it is unclear where the narration is headed and what will happen to Miss Snowe given her current financial circumstances, it is clear that she is a character of determination and intuition.  It will be interesting to see where this leads.

***As an aside, I’ve purposely not read much about this novel or any reviews to keep my experience with it unencumbered.

Stay tuned next Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011, for the next discussion.


  1. I feel quite the same, after this little taste, I am eager to know more about Lucy and what will happen to her. I’m also reading this with little to no influence or prior knowledge of the plot, it’s how I prefer to read classics!

  2. How interesting your point about the similarities between Polly and Lucy! I actually think Polly is there mostly as a contrast to Lucy, but I see your point. Lucy is shy about asking for attention – maybe she thinks she’s not worthy of it? Maybe there’s an internal battle between getting some attention and the need to be a part of the background and just an observer.

  3. I have thought about the interaction between Polly and Grahame, and how precocious/annoying Polly is to me, but I hadn’t considered the similarities between Polly and Lucy. It’s true, what you point out, that they both want attention, and, in my opinion, affirmation. But Lucy goes about it so subtly, almost hiding herself, while Polly is filled with much more bravado and confidence. I know that I’m immediately drawn to Lucy, and I’m so curious to find out more about her.

    • I like how Bronte juxtaposed Polly and Lucy. I found that interesting. I can’t wait to see what happens next, though I kind of hope we see Polly when she’s a little more grown up than six.

  4. I’m actually really getting into this one!! Great summary..thanks for it!

  5. I have also read next to nothing about this book before starting the read along. I want Charlotte Bronte to be the one telling me Villette’s story 🙂 And so far I’ve been quite engaged.
    And I did not know that Aurora Borealis could be seen in England!

    • I didn’t know that the Aurora could be seen in England either. I was surprised by that as well. I really like not to know too much about the book when I start.

  6. I don’t think I’ve even heard of this book before. I’ve only read Jayne Eyre a LONG time ago.
    Ladytink_534´s last blog post ..Still Armed Still Dangerous Still Got It

  7. I thought Polly was a strange character and I would have liked a little bit more about Lucy and what her days were like at Bretton, she was there for 6 months. She seems very quiet and easily content. I’m also interested to see where she ends up.

    I didn’t think about the aurora borealis being part of the Gothic themes but that makes sense…thank you!

    My thoughts are posted: Thoughts on Villette
    Amy´s last blog post ..Villette Read-a-long- Week One

  8. Yeah, Polly was an odd duck–almost unreal in her oddity. I’m looking forward to seeing where it all leads.

  9. I found the beginning section with Polly very odd – she is a strange little girl!
    Carrie K.´s last blog post ..Book Review- Changing My Mind- Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

  10. Looking forward to your final thoughts on this one. I’ve heard it’s not terribly exciting, so I’m taking a wait and see approach. Have fun!
    Anna´s last blog post ..The Girl’s Thoughts on Meet Molly American Girl by Valerie Tripp

    • I heard similar things, but I like to read books to find out what I think of them regardless of negative reviews. It just may take me longer to get to them as I get over the initial trepidation.