Persuasion and Villette – Snapshot Book Reviews

Snapshot reviews are short book reviews of around 200-250 words.

Persuasion

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐

Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classic
Publication year: 1817
Audience: All ages
Content warnings: Sexism.

Review

Persuasion is widely regarded as one of Jane Austen’s best novels and one her strongest works. It follows Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old unmarried woman whose life is thrown into a tailspin when her former lover, Captain Wentworth returns to her hometown. Characteristic of an Austen novel, it’s light on plot and very slow paced with a focus on characters and character dynamics.

Of the four Austen novels I’ve read (the others being Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey) this was my least favourite. Whilst I usually enjoy the slow pace, this was too slow. It was meandering and uneventful. I also found myself getting lost in the large cast of characters all of whom were indistinguishable from one another. As a protagonist Anne was bland and difficult to connect with in comparison to Emma and Lizzie.

The second-chance romance was a refreshing change from the other Austen romances. However, the romance wasn’t much of a focus until the end. My lack of connection to the characters also made it difficult for me to connect to the romance. The ending felt rushed and unearned.

Unfortunately, Persuasion was not an enjoyable reading experience for me. Although I’ve enjoyed all of the other novels I’ve read from Austen, I found it difficult to find redeemable qualities with this one. It lacks the fun, wit and lightheartedness that I have come to expect from Austen and the lack of plot paired with my inability to connect to the characters ultimately meant that it didn’t work for me.

I’d recommend Persuasion if:

You are an Austen fan that enjoys slow paced classics with large casts and a second chance romance.

Villette

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Author: Charlotte Brontë
Genre: Classic
Publication year: 1853
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Sexism, misogyny, depression, mental illness, paranoia, grief, verbal abuse, anti Catholicism.

Review

Villette is Charlotte Brontë’s third and final novel. It tells the story of orphan, Lucy Snowe as she moves to the fictional French town of Villette to pursue her independence and a new life. It’s a slow paced story which is primarily a character study of Lucy Snowe; a polarising and complex protagonist. My reading experience was very mixed, with some parts boring me to tears and others compelling me to read more.

The slow pacing was difficult to get through at times and the relentless passages of French repeatedly pulled me out of the story. Nonetheless, I was strangely enamoured by Lucy’s character, despite her being a generally unlikeable person. I particularly enjoyed the unreliable narration from Lucy and how her memories, biases and conscious decision to withold certain information provided insight into her character. It also prevented me from ever fully grasping the truth, leaving lots of room for interpretation and analysis.

Villette is destined to live in the shadow of Jane Eyre, and whilst generally readers are more likely to favour the latter, the former has a lot of merit. Charlotte’s writing style is encapsulating; her descriptions are wonderfully visual and her ability to capture emotion is fantastic. There was a fascinating exploration of mental health and despite the toxic love interest, I appreciated that there was a portrayal of unrequited love and an ending which didn’t fulfil the cliche “happily ever after” trope. Overall, this is a feminist tale of a young woman, alone in the world seeking purpose and belonging.

I’d recommend Villette if:

You’re looking for a slow paced classic set in France with a complex female protagonist and themes of feminism, love, loss, mental health and finding purpose.

Have you read Persuasion or Villette or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.