Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

Title: The Professor
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genre: Classics
Publisher: Oxford University Press
First Published: 1857
Pages: 304

Rating - 4 out of 10

First of all, my reading of this book was not influenced by "Villette," and neither is this review. I have not, as of now, read that particular Bronte volume yet, so I will be reviewing this book without the comparison that I see most reviewers place on it.

The Professor is about the young man William Crimsworth, who eradicates himself from a job working for his arrogant brother and travels to Belgium to become a professor. There, he meets Zoraide Reuter, the headmistress of the school, a woman who hides a conniving nature behind a layer of charm. He also meets Frances Evans Henri, an intelligent young woman who is also one of his pupils. As he becomes closer to Frances, a jealous Zoraide schemes to remove her from the school.

I loved the writing style of this book, delicate and precise, but not overly feminine or too flowery. I appreciated the fact that it was told from a male perspective, as I sometimes get annoyed at books written during this period for their dramatic fainting scenes and exclamations - something that this one kept to a minimum thanks to the stoic, practical nature of its main character. I found the male voice a refreshing change.

The first of the two main female characters, Zoraide, was very interesting, though I wish that she had been emphasized more, especially later in the book. She relies on her charm - which she is proudly all too aware of - to get her through life, needs male attention in order to thrive, and enjoys having every man obsessed with her. Even while she has another lover, she cannot resist enticing William to fall in love with her. She offers up offended denial when the other man accuses her of flirting with William, and offers up further offended denial when William accuses her of being involved with someone else. Perhaps her need for attention and lust are attributed to her age, and fading beauty.

Though Zoraide is an striking character in this book, she isn't exactly a very large part of it. She is certainly involved in the plot, but she disappears shortly after William shifts his attentions to Frances. She is conveniently married off and swept out of the story, which disappointed me.

That leads me to another point - the back cover of this book led me to believe that the story involved a love triangle of sorts. It does not. William's future love interest, Frances, does not enter the story until half-way through or more, and by then, Zoraide has been largely forgotten. Even though not completely eradicated from the plot (yet), William certainly has gotten over all traces of romantic interest in her.

I also disliked the ending chapters, which describe life years, decades after William and Frances have married. They now have a son, are living pretty near happily ever after... And so on. Some scenes about William's son are given, but I wish that the book would have just ended with William and Frances marrying. I felt that the following scenes, which recounted mundane and very ordinary home life, seemed unnecessary and reminded up more sharply of the fact that, well, this is a slightly boring couple.

I really enjoyed this book, but am looking forward to delving deeper into the works of the Bronte sisters.