(Review) Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Books. 1974. First published 1849.
Genre: Classic literature.
Pages: 622.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of the Bronte authors. Readers of classic literature.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link
The book is free on Kindle eBook

Links of interest:
Literary Ladies Guide
The Literature Network

Summary:
Reading the summary of the book at Amazon leaves one lacking in what the story is really about. Goodreads shares more information.
Shirley’s time period is during the Napoleonic Wars, Luddite riots, and economic hardship (1811-1812) in England.
Shirley is the name of one of the female characters: Shirley Keeldar.
The first four chapters show the tension and situation of the small town in Yorkshire where this story takes place.
Mr. Moore is a young man who has a business, a mill. He is unmarried and prefers to stay that way. He is an ambitious man by modernizing his home and business as money allowed. He didn’t consider that by modernizing the mill it put people out of work and without income.
The two female lead characters are Shirley and Caroline.

My Thoughts:
It took a while to become invested in the story. For me, the first few chapters crept along until chapter six.
The second paragraph of the first chapter tells me not to expect a romance. I was told to “calm my expectations.” However, I don’t feel this statement is entirely correct. It is a subdued romance, but there is romance in the story.
I immediately felt compassion for Caroline Helstone. She lives with her uncle who gives the strong impression he is indifferent to her plight as a single young woman. He has negative views on marriage that doesn’t help Caroline. She befriends a young woman named Shirley Keeldar. Shirley has money. She has a governess, Mrs. Pryor, who still lives with her.
Caroline represents women of this era, because she does not have money of her own. She doesn’t have the ability to secure an income and independence. She is dependent on an uncle.
Shirley represents women who have money and thus more freedom.
I wanted to point these things out because they influence the women’s personalities, demeanor, and future.
Themes in the story are love, ambition, romance, honesty, perseverance, and compassion.
A strong plot is the relationships between men and women, love, and marriage. But, it is also Robert’s mill and how he handles his business ambitions and dealings that is against the people in the community. Both of these are conflicts that carry the story.
I learned to love this story, not at first, but a slow love of endearment. What enticed me is the conversations by women about men.

An important note about Shirley is the actual background of the writing of the story. All three of Charlotte’s surviving siblings died when she was writing this book. She didn’t want this information told to her readers even though her publishers wanted it in the preface. She said, “I can shed no tears before the public, nor utter any groan in the public ear….” Page 17.

Branwell died 24 September 1848
Emily died 19 December 1848
Anne died 28 May 1849

Favorite Quote:
“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.”

Charlotte Bronte 1816-1855

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