So quoth George Eliot! And I can't help but agree with her statement. I recently finished reading Charlotte Bronte's Villette. It is an immensely powerful book - moving, depressing, intensely emotional but never sentimental. It's definitely one of those books that I think will improve on a second or third reading. Right now, though, I'm not game to read it all over again. Reading Villette is quite an exhausting experience - it's hard work reading it! There were many, many passages that I had to read several times before I "got it".
Villette is partly based upon Charlotte Bronte's own experience as a student, then teacher, in Brussels. The narrator, Lucy Snowe, is a young woman who suffers crushing grief - after losing all of her family, she is left completely alone, and has to make her own way in the world. Through a series of extraordinary circumstances, she ends up travelling to Villette (Brussels), and getting a position as an English teacher at a school for girls.
You know what - I'm sitting here, trying to write a post about this book, but I find I can't. It is simply too powerful and too complex a book for me to be able to organise my thoughts on it at this point. Instead, let me simply recommend that you read it. Then talk to me about it! Maybe I'll be able to draw out more of my ideas on the book via discussion.
Make you sure you buy the Penguin Classics edition - don't make the same mistake that I did! If you're fluent in French, you might manage, but otherwise, get the Penguin edition.
It's not a book for the faint of heart. It's a book that will challenge you, inspire you, move you, and ultimately take your breath away.
And the ending! Oh my! I don't want to spoil it for you. But you must tell what you thought of the end after you've finished it.