Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I would not be you for a kingdom

Here we are, week two of the Villette readalong, hosted by Alice. Thank you, Alice! Our readalongs are the best. So, let's jump right into chapters 6-15.
Things Lucy doesn't like:
The Irish
French people (or at least the lazy/big-eared ones)
People who seem happy in marriages that Lucy doesn't approve of
People who are a miffed at having to show a random person to a room/job in the middle of the night
Dressing like a dude, even if she's playing a guy in a play
Community theater

Things Lucy is surprisingly cool with:
Crazy lady that goes through her stuff in the middle of the night, watches her sleep, makes copies of her keys, general spy stuff
Being locked in a hot attic full of rats and bugs to learn lines for a play she doesn't want to be in

Let's step back.

When we last left Lucy she was crying in her hotel room in London. Not long after she decides she'll take a boat ride to the continent. So she shows up in what I understood to be the middle of the night, cos why not just get her space RIGHT NOW? And she doesn't understand why the people on the boat are not jumping to attention and getting her a room.
A stout, handsome, and showy woman was in the ladies' cabin. I asked to be shown my berth; she looked hard at me, muttered something about its being unusual for passengers to come on board at that hour, and seemed disposed to be less than civil. What a face she had - so comely - so insolent and so selfish! 
"Now that I am on board, I shall certainly stay here," was my answer. "I will trouble you to show me my berth."
Yes, how dare this woman be so selfish. Not the cab driver guy that cheated her by telling her it was going to cost way more than it actually should have. That's fine. But this lady that isn't snapping to attention quite quickly enough, she's terrible.

While on the boat Lucy meets a couple young women,  one of whom, Ginevra Fanshawe, is headed for the town of Villette where she goes to school. Surprisingly, this girl isn't secretly Polly. Or at least I don't think so. She is frivolous but very nice to Lucy and she might be shallow but at least she's entertaining.

When they finally get ashore, after a night in a hotel, she decides to head to Villette cos why not? I do admire her ability to just go wherever, without any real plan, without knowing the language, just to try to make a living. Unfortunately for Lucy, her luggage doesn't make it to Villette with her. Don't think lost luggage is just an modern issue with airlines. She meets an Englishman who directs her to a hotel but she gets lost and ends up on the doorstep of Madame Beck, the woman who runs the school Ginevra was headed to. WHAT LUCK? Naturally, even though it is the middle of the night, she knocks on the door to inquire about a job. Luckily, Mme Beck is sort of a nut so after a quick physiognomy read by another of the teachers, she gets a job caring for Beck's three children.

Lucy is shown to a bed in the children's room, where the kids are already asleep. You'd think it would terrify the kids to wake up the next day and see some strange lady in the room with them. But it turns out Mme Beck is super creepy, so they're probably used to weird shit. After Lucy is asleep Mme Beck wanders into the room. At first it's just to check on her kids, and that's fine. But then.
I daresay she sat a quarter of an hour on the edge of my bed, gazing at my face. She then drew nearer, bent close over me; slightly raised my cap, and turned back the border so as to expose my hair...This done, she turned to the chair where my clothes lay...In my dress was a pocket; she fairly turned it insight out: she counted the money in my purse; she opened a little memorandum-book, coolly perused its contents, and took from between the leaves a small plaited lock of Miss Marchmont's grey hair. To a bunch of three keys, being those of my trunk, desk, and work-box, she accorded special attention: with these, indeed, she withdrew a moment to her own room...these keys, reader, were not brought back till they had left on the toilet of the adjoining room the impress of their wards in wax.
Instead of this being the lead-up to horror movie-like shenanigans, Lucy just chalks this up to un-Englishness and is cool with it. And even impressed with Mme Beck.

She is not, however, impressed with Mrs. Sweeny, the children's previous caretaker who is also going to wake up to see a random person sleeping in the room. But instead of it being just a new face, it's going to be a replacement. Now granted, it seems Sweeny is a drunk so perhaps should not be in charge of children. On the other hand, Lucy says shit like "I need hardly explain to the reader that this lady was in effect a native of Ireland," and thanks Lucy, for making me remember that you're kind of terrible.

For awhile Lucy just cares for the kids but one day Mme Beck decides to fire the current English teacher and replace them with Lucy. See, Mme Beck's method is to never tell someone when they're doing a bad job and give them an opportunity to improve; instead she just makes them think they're doing fine and the blindsides them with a firing. This is who Lucy admires.

Lucy is afraid she won't be able to maintain control of the classroom, which good reason since she doesn't speak much French and yelling at someone in a foreign language isn't that effective. She asserts her dominance by locking an unruly student in a closet, which I suppose is the Victorian teacher version of beating up the smallest person in prison so the others know not to fuck with you. It's OK though because you see:
It so happened that this girl, Dolores by name, and a Catalonian by race, was the sort of character at once dreaded and hated by all her associates; the act of summary justice above noted proved popular
Ginevra is at the school, which should be obvious because she told Lucy that's where she was headed. She tells Lucy about this guy Isidor that is in looooooove with her and she's just having a good time now but ultimately doesn't love him the same and Lucy disapproves. Ginerva has some good reasons to not be so into the guy, one of them being that he thinks she is PERFECT which sounds like a compliment except she sees as him liking the idea of her more than who she actually is. "He thinks I am perfect: furnished with all sorts of sterling qualities and solid virtues, such as I never had, nor intend to have." So see, Ginevra isn't totally naive. Maybe I don't so much agree with her accepting gifts from the guy a leading him on, but whatever.

We're introduced to a new character, Dr. John, and English doctor that ends up treating Mme Beck's children and all of the girls fall in love with him, a la Indiana Jones.
Lucy is pretty sure he and Mme Beck have something going on. BUT it turns out (as we find later [but still within this week's section]) that Dr. John is Ginevra's Isidore. Dun dun duuuuuun. But Ginevra actually likes this other guy so man, it is awkward (for them, not for Ginevra) when they're both in the same room together.

There's a room that the boarding students use as a study room. Then each night they read from a book about saints' legends and Lucy tries to sit in and listen until one day she can't take it anymore and stabs her scissors into a table.
I sat out this "lecture pieuse" for some nights as well as I could, and as quietly too; only once breaking off the points of my scissors by involuntarily sticking them somewhat deep in the worm-eaten board of the table before me. But, at last, it made me so burning hot, and my temples, and my heart, and my wrist throbbed so fast, and my sleep afterwards was so broken with excitement, that I could sit no longer.
Who knew Lucy = April
I'm not entirely sure why she's SO UPSET by these stories. Other than it's Popish superstition. Yeah, she is not a fan of Catholics. No one seems mean to her cos she's a Protestant in this mostly Catholic school. I don't actually remember it coming up at all. I will assume Alice will explain all of this.

Near the end of the year, before final exams, the school puts on a big party including a play. The lit teacher (or is it history?) is in charge of the play and he is a draaaaaamaaaaaaaa couch so I guess it works that he's directing. He is also crazy, locking Lucy in the attic so she can really focus on learning her lines, when she agrees to fill in when a student backs out (or proves herself unworthy or whatever). She's not super upset with this, just hungry and getting faint but really does not make a stink about the fact that she was locked away while everyone has having fun NOT being circled by rats and spiders. What she IS upset about is the idea that she will have to dress like a dude for the play. For, you see, she's playing the part of the man and crazily they seem to think that she should dress like the character she is portraying. She doesn't think so and I'm not entirely sure what the compromise is, but I think it's dressing with dude clothes on top, but a dress underneath?

After the party and exams it's time for break. Pretty much everyone leads except for Lucy and one handicapped student who Lucy is SUPER BITTER about having to look after. Don't worry, someone saves her the indignity of having to take care of a "cretin". Bummer though, she gets super sick suddenly and never calls a doctor.
She does make her way to a Catholic church but is VERY CLEAR that she does get into this stuff, even if she thinks the priest that was trying to help her (without trying to convert her) was very nice. On her way home she gets lost and there's a storm and she faints and falls on some stairs. The end.

So, let's see what happens in the next chapters! Will there be less French, cos yeah, it's been over 10 years since I took a French class and I have forgotten pretty much everything in that time. Will Lucy get more likable? Man, I hope so. I also wish that Bronte wrote more like Dickens and PS, Dickens is not generally my thing but I would KILL for some of his amazing characters.

Till next week

Title quote from page 118