Title: The Professor
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Published: 1994 (first published: 1857)
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Limited
My Scource: Boekenfestijn Gent
My score on Goodreads: 5 stars
Charlotte Brontë's first novel certainly benefits from the vocal gifts of reader James Wilby. Title character William Crimsworth's attempt to find his own way in a world obsessed with money and manners comes alive as Bronte's vivid images and Wilby's lyrical delivery combine. Met with a rainbow of characters, the listener can easily establish each as an individual and understand how they impact Crimsworth. This recording is a fine introduction to nineteenth-century literature.
As a "Flamande" (to use the word Brontë seemed to like a lot) it was really strange to read a book written by Charlotte Brontë about a professor, named William Crimsworth, who came to BELGIUM to teach English. There was a long time I didn't even know this book existed. Until one day I discovered there's a Brontë-tour in Brussels (http://www.thebrusselsbrontegroup.org/) because Charlotte and her sister Emily visited our beautiful country with their father in 1842. They stayed in a Pensionnat for a while and that's the place where Charlotte fell in love with a Belgian professor, monsieur Heger. With this man in her mind, she wrote her first novel "The professor" (only published after her death in 1855).
The special thing about this novel was that Charlotte inhabited the voice and consciousness of a man. In all of her later novels she writes about a female main character. Some critics believe her male perspective in this book was flawed... I wouldn't know since I'm not a man, but for me she did a pretty good job in bringing William Crimsworth to life. She gives us an image of a man with a very special character. He knows this too and doesn't deny it. On our way through the story we find an honest man who seems to write his diary. He lets us know everything he does, what he thinks, what the people around him say and/or do. This may sound boring, but I promise you: this book isn't boring AT ALL! Charlotte knows how to keep her readers interested and we can see that she has practiced writing before she began her first novel. Untill the very end of the story you don't exactly know what to expect and that's one of the things a truly loved about this book.
Now... something on the story. William Crimsworth hasn't exactly known in his life what it feels like to have a loving family, let alone one person in your life who loves you and supports you. His parents died when he was very young and his older brother, although very rich and successful, isn't quite loving or helping either. After a failed attempt to work for his tyrinnical brother, William decides to leave for Belgium. With some help he soon finds a job as English professor in a boarding school for boys. After a while he also starts to teach English in a school for girls. It's in this last school he meets the directress, miss Zoraïde Reuter, and falls in love with her. She seems to answer his love, but soon he finds out that things aren't always what they seem to be. Miss Zoraïde only saw him as a distraction and is secretly engaged to the director of the boys school where Crimsworth also works.
This is a moment in the book where Charlotte really captures the feelings and thoughts of our main character. We can see him develop from a state of disappointment to a state of anger and finally to a new state of being in love. Indeed William falls for one of his students. Luckily this student isn't just one of the minor girls he tries to teach English, but a colleague who wanted to improve her English, Frances Henri. I'm not going to elaborate about this beautiful moment in Crimsworths live. You just need to read for yourself how William and his beloved student are being torn appart but finally find each other back.
If I have to find one thing I didn't like about this book, it's the fact Charlotte seems to find Belgians ugly and stupid. She grabs every opportunity to say something bad about the Flemish boys and girls in Crimsworths classes... Meuh! ;)
A thing a liked was that Charlotte Brontë used a lot of French in this novel. It just makes it a little bit more "real".