Oh, how Charlotte Brontë loves to surprise us. Lucy Snowe, our seemingly frank yet mysterious narrator, claims to be unsurprised by some of the developments in Volume II of Villette, but there is a question about whether she is just saving face, as Jaclyn at Covered in Flour argues, or whether she relishes having the upper hand by keeping these secrets.
Certain themes dominate Volume II, including the role of women in society, as Beth at Too Fond discusses. For example, Lucy and M. Paul, a domineering continental European man, clash over whether a young woman like Lucy should “contemplate” a lavish portrait entitled “Cleopatra” or confine herself to viewing the hideous “four pictures of a woman’s life.” M. Paul concludes, “You nurslings of Protestantism astonish me. You unguarded Englishwomen walk calmly amidst red-hot ploughshares and escape burning,” referencing other themes in Brontë’s work: Lucy’s independence and the conflict between British and French values in Brontë’s fictionalized Belgium.
While Lucy vows not to burden anyone, she suffers from the isolated nature of her work and lifestyle, and increasingly leans on someone who is connected to her through a shared English identity and past. In his home, a foreign-yet-familiar room, Lucy finds herself comforted by the reminders of England, including “English tea,” which she proclaims “render[s] the picture perfect.”
As I mentioned on Twitter, this is a novel that calls for a cup of black tea while reading it. On a whim, largely because it’s been a long time since my last giveaway, I’ve decided to offer a “good book and a cup of tea” GIVEAWAY to complement the Villette read-along. This giveaway is open now through 11:59 PM (EST) on Sunday, June 2nd.
I will choose ONE WINNER, who will receive:
- A $10 Gift Certificate to Amazon.com (open to anyone living where Amazon will honor the gift certificate); and
- A $10 Gift Certificate to Teavana.com (US residents only) (they have a nice selection of loose teas)
If the winner can only accept the Amazon.com gift certificate, I will choose a second winner to receive the Teavana gift certificate.
All you have to do is write a comment below, anything from “I’m in!” to a description of your favorite classic novel or tea will suffice. You do not need to follow my blog (and you do not have to be a blogger). On June 3rd, I will choose one winner at random (using Random.org’s Integer Generator to pick a winner, and counting comments but not replies to comments). I will contact that person by email and they must respond to my email within 48 hours. We will work out the details.
Good luck and thank you for participating!
We will conclude Villette next week. In the meantime, join the discussion on Twitter (#villettealong).