I went into this story without know anything apart that it’s about a woman moving from England to live in a foreign place called Villette. I still know nothing about it apart from these first five chapters.

My first thought after finishing them was this: Lucy Snow, who are you? Something tells me I won’t get much closer to an answer by the end of the book, and it surprised me that Charlotte decided to create such a mysterious heroine after letting us into bit of Jane Eyre’s mind (or maybe because of it?).

Lucy, we find in these first five chapters, is a keen observer and gives us an intimate glimpse of two homes. The first is her godmother’s, whom she’s visiting and where she meets Polly-the-creepy-child. Polly is a relative that’s staying with them while her father is out of the country for his health. She’s a six-year-old drama queen who transfers her almost morbid attachment to her father to the godmother’s son, Graham. Lucy’s descriptions of the way Polly clings to these two men made me slightly uncomfortable – her gestures and dialogues are those of a wife or a lover, and in modern times would deserve serious counseling. Take a look at this eerie description of Polly:

Opposite where he had placed himself [Graham] was seated Mr. Home, and at his elbow, the child. When I say child I use an inappropriate and undescriptive term—a term suggesting any picture rather than that of the demure little person in a mourning frock and white chemisette, that might just have fitted a good-sized doll—perched now on a high chair beside a stand, whereon was her toy work-box of white varnished wood, and holding in her hands a shred of a handkerchief, which she was professing to hem, and at which she bored perseveringly with a needle, that in her fingers seemed almost a skewer, pricking herself ever and anon, marking the cambric with a track of minute red dots; occasionally starting when the perverse weapon—swerving from her control—inflicted a deeper stab than usual; but still silent, diligent, absorbed, womanly.

Flashes of “Village of the Damned” keept crossing my mind…

The second home we’re introduced to is that of invalid Miss Marchmont, to take is Lucy as a companion/nurse after an unexplained tragedy happens. I had to go back and re-read the metaphors about boats and storms to realize Lucy was telling us she’d lost all her family and was now alone in the world. Did Charlotte know that by not telling us what happened, the reader would imagine the worst?

Lucy spends years confined to the two rooms Miss Marchmoors is limited to, and dedicates her life to the Lady’s comfort. I came to see this time in her life as a necessary harbour of safety and constancy, after her unnamed difficulties. My favorite part of these chapters were Lucy’s thoughts when Miss Marchmont dies and she is forced out of her emotional hibernation:

It seemed I must be stimulated into action. I must be goaded, driven, stung, forced to energy. My little morsel of human affection, which I prized as if it were a solid pearl, must melt in my fingers and slip thence like a dissolving hailstone. My small adopted duty must be snatched from my easily contented conscience. I had wanted to compromise with Fate: to escape occasional great agonies by submitting to a whole life of privation and small pains. Fate would not so be pacified; nor would Providence sanction this shrinking sloth and cowardly indolence.

This is the second book I’ve read this year where we’re left ignorant of the heroine’s background and it’s interesting to see the difference it makes in character development. You really are the sum of all your experiences and the decisions you make are a consequence of a past cause. So why did Charlotte decided to give us a “past-less” Lucy Snowe? Something I’m looking forward to explore in the next chapters.

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