Villette by Charlotte Bronte
'I am only just returned to a sense of the real world about me, for I have been reading Villette, a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre. Thus was George Eliot's response to Charlotte Bronte's dramatic Gothic exploration of a woman's rebellion against her constricting social environment. Set in a Belgian girls' school, it tells of Lucy Snowe's attraction to fiery, autocratic master Paul Emmanuel and headmistress, Madame Beck's jealous interference in their romance. The novel's blend of sombre vision and ironic and exuberant comedy make it especially appealing to the modern reader.