O Lucy Snow, we were getting along so well… these new six chapters made me wish you had continued behind your mystery veil.
I really like the “London” chapter because the exhilaration of being a stranger in a strange town, with an uncertain future in front of you, is one I can recognize. I admired her strength in keeping her “consciousness of anxiety” at bay and allow herself to enjoy the step she’s taken:
I went up Cornhill; I mixed with the life passing along; I dared the perils of crossings. To do this, and do it utterly alone, gave me, perhaps an irrational, but a real pleasure.
I was much less sympathetic once she arrived in Labassecour and Villette or even as soon as she was abroad the vessel out of England – I believe she has yet to say something completely nice about someone she meets, although she seems kinder to English gentlemen… As an expat, this is a type of attitude that makes me cringe: that of other expats or tourist who constantly compare their host country to their home country, which usually comes up as a better place, full of better people. Lucy is like that. She’s been a little bundle of negativity ever since leaving London, which in my view makes her look ungenerous and slightly ungrateful.
A bluff little personage this maitresse was – Labassecourienne from top to toe; and how she did slaughter the speech of Albion (Really Lucy! You’re in a French-speaking country, have you noticed? Let’s see you speak it a bit, shall we?)
Madame’s visitations for shortcoming might be slow, but they were sure. All this very un-English: truly I was in a foreign land. (It this a compliment veiled as a criticisms or a criticism veiled as a compliment?)
(…) she would talk to me (…) about England and Englishwomen, and the reasons for what she was pleased to term their superior intelligence, and more real and reliable probity. Very good sense she often showed; very sound opinions she often broached (…)
Where an English girl of not more than average capacity and docility would quietly take a theme and bind herself to the task of comprehension and mastery, a Labassecourienne would laugh in your face, and throw it back to you with the phrase, – “Dieu, que c’est difficile! Je n’en veux pas. Cella m’ennule trop.”
I’m sure I’m more affected by this attitude because I know Charlotte based it on her own experiences in Brussels. After more than five years living here, the city has become more home than anywhere else, and I feel very protective of it.
Lucy’s attitude towards Mrs Beck, made me “enjoy” the Madame more. Her character and the eccentric way in which she rules her business were superbly written (as really all the book so far). I especially liked the scene where she wants Lucy to go from nanny to a teacher and Lucy is crying with fear:
“Will you,” she said, “go backward or forward?” indicating with her hand, first, the small door of communication with the dwelling-house, and then the great double portals of the classes or schoolrooms.
“En avant.” I said.
Maybe my sight is now clouded by prejudice, but didn’t you feel that Lucy’s observations of Dr John were bordering on the “stalkerish”? She was rude when she was caught staring at him and then ignored his question, and she also does her bit of spying, when she realises the maid has upset him…
Still think the writing is beautiful and gripping, but for now, the heroine has fallen in my humble consideration.