Here is a list of some features of Bronte's novel that may qualify as identifying elements of the chick-lit genre.
- An unmarried female protagonist, Lucy Snowe, with competing rival male suitors.
- A text that valourises a female protagonist, and insists that her internal qualities -- character, intellect, acumen, &c -- be acknowledged and valued, while external limitations -- physical or mental state, material circumstance, &c. -- are to be ignored. The narrator emphasises the plainness of her appearance -- but presents it as a virtue, in concert with her sensible Yorkshire rusticity. Her savage denunciation of the painting in "Cleopatra" represents her attitude toward luxuriousness in dress, cosmetics and apartment.
- A dark and dangerous Byronic-type male: M. Paul - the fictional representation of Bronte's employer and desired lover in Brussels, the married M. Heger. Also, a fair and pliant gentlemanly object of desire: Dr. John Graham Bretton. One neuter male to be derided: the metrosexual de Hamal.
- Problems and complications in the matter of romance with all suitors: including their complete obliviousness to their status as suitor.
- Dissatisfaction, conflict, &/or lack of fulfulfilment with work: or, as the West Riding Yorkshire Bronte might have put it, "trubble a' mill!"
- Obssession or unhealthy degree of focus on some aspect of self: in Villette this is mental stability, specifically melancholia.
- A romantic setting and mood -- "romantic" used here in several senses. Villette with its dark-&-stormy-nights, its large, old, heavily-built, former nunnery, and possible haunting by a reputedly murdered Nun, applies the gothic tradition to its artistic purpose.
- Great emphasis on dialogue and description of place and character over plot. Suggestion of mock epic in the faux and very petty suspense that the narrator -- soon understood to be of questionable reliability -- habitually presents.
- Heavy-handed villainising of an "other" -- here, Roman Catholicism.
- Unmistakable affirmation of the narrator's system of value: in Villette an incessant and loud English patriotism. This laudation of all things English is ubiquitous in the text and is the heavy-handed antipathetic complement to the portrayal of decadent non-Protestant Europe.
So, there's a list. I'll give a synthesis sometime later. For now, I'm interested in considering your posted comments on how you summarise Villette for purposes of our research into the genre of chick-lit.