(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

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

(Review) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen


Publisher and Publication Date: Race Point Publishing, an imprint of The Quarto Group. 2015. First published in three volumes in 1811.
Genre: Fiction. Women and literature. 
Pages: 357.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of Jane Austen.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link 

Further links:
Britannica on the book itself
Britannica on Jane Austen
Jane Austen Biograph
Jane Austen Society of North America
BBC History 

This is the third time I’ve read this book. The cover of the book is not my favorite.

Early nineteenth century England.
Mr. Henry Dashwood died leaving a wife and three daughters without a secure financial future. His son, John Dashwood, from a first marriage became the inheritor of the estate. The family continued to all live together in the estate in Sussex for several months. During the period of time when all the family is living at the estate, John Dashwood’s brother-in-law came to visit. His name is Edward Ferrars. Edward and Marianne became friends and an attachment developed between them. Edward’s sister is not pleased. It had already been difficult with all of them living together, but the time came when it was unbearable. A relative of the widow, Mrs. Henry Dashwood, offered the women a small cottage in Devonshire. The women left Sussex and began a new life in Devonshire.

The three sisters are Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret.
Elinor is nineteen. She has a calm and quiet demeanor. She is cautious, level-headed, a peacemaker, and prudent.
Marianne is sixteen. She has a passionate personality. She is an emotional person and those emotions at times overtake wisdom.
Margaret is thirteen. She is more like Marianne than Elinor. Her personality is still developing.

My Thoughts:
Sense and Sensibility is my favorite of Jane Austen’s works.
The main reason I love this story is it is four women (one a child) who come to terms with the sad events of their life and create a new life for themselves.
A second reason is I love the sisterly relationship. I have two older sisters who I am close to. The three of us have different personalities. We don’t always agree. Sometimes we have misunderstandings. Yet, we love each other and we’re completely devoted to one another.
The romantic interests of the two older sisters is a strong storyline, but it is not a reason this is a favorite story to me.
I’ve read various readers pronounce Marianne’s final love choice as terrible. They think she settled. So much we don’t know about Marianne’s final romantic decision. However, she experienced some things that brought about a different perspective. The different perspective gave her a new perception and realization about love.
Romantic love doesn’t always look, progress, or settle in the places we expect. I’m guilty of having the thought, “love must look like this.” Especially when I was young. Sometimes we see what we want to see. We also see with a vision that can be obscured.
I’ve been both Elinor and Marianne. I can relate to both women. This is another reason I love this story. As a woman, I can identify with the heroines.
I was reminded (while reading this story) at how much thought and energy women spend wondering what men are thinking. Why men say or don’t say certain things? And, why do women wait for men? I’ve known women wait many years for a marriage proposal. I know one woman who waited 15 years!

(Review) The Iliad by Homer, A New Translation by Caroline Alexander

Publisher and Publication Date: Ecco. 2016. Paperback edition.
Genre: Greek mythology.
Pages: 608.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers who love the classics. Readers of Greek mythology.
Rating: Excellent.

Original title: Ιλιάς

This is the first book to contribute to my list of The Classics Club. My goal is to read 50 classics in five years.
On a sidebar widget on this blog there is a photo of old books. Clicking on that photo will take you to the list of books I plan to read. However, the list is a living list-meaning it can change!

Amazon link

Links for further information:
Ancient History Encyclopedia

Image is from the Iliad, Book VIII, lines 245-253.

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem. It was written in the 8th century BCE. Homer is considered the author.
It is the story of the last year of the ten year Trojan War. The time span for the poem covers several weeks.
The two groups fighting are the Achaeans or Greeks and the Trojans of Troy or Ilion.
The war began, because Paris (a son of King Priam of Troy) abducted Helen of Sparta, the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. Menelaus and his brother, King Agamemnon of Mycenae, and their armies descend on Troy for revenge.
Achilles is the greatest warrior of the Greeks. He is a demi-god. His parents are Nereid Thetis (a sea nymph) and Peleus, King of Phthia.
Hector is the greatest warrior of the Trojans. He is the eldest son of King Priam.
The true history of the Trojan War began in the late Bronze Age, probably 1200 BCE. Homer’s epic poem is not to be taken as factual history. It is a form of literature, more like a legend. It’s an oral poem. It is written in 24 books.
Some of the characters are: Achilles, Ajax, Patroclus, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Priam, Hector, Andromache, Helen, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena, and Zeus.
The poem begins with an argument between Achilles and Agamemnon. Achilles wants Agamemnon to return the priest’s daughter who was taken captive. Agamemnon doesn’t want to return the girl. He prefers her to his wife at home.
Achilles is the principle character throughout The Iliad. The spotlight will include Hector and other characters, but Achilles is the dominant focus.

My Thoughts:
The Iliad is a story you will want to take notes.
Some examples of notes:
~The change of names, Paris is called Alexandros at times.
~Making a list of expressions: “swift-footed Achilles,” “silver-footed Thetis,”
and “of the lovely cheeks.” The last example is referring to multiple women.
~The gods and the mortals they prefer.
~The gods and their human qualities.
~A list of women abducted.

The introduction is interesting. I enjoyed learning about the text, history surrounding the story, Mycenaean culture and history, the city of Troy, oral poetry, battle scenes; and relationships between men, and between men and women.

The Iliad is a sad story. Some of the characters know they will die. The war is lengthy (ten years), and the men are tired and wonder if the war has been worth it. The response of Achilles after Patroclus’s death is heartbreaking.
Hector has a family. What will happen to them after his death? This answer is not included in the story. The Iliad doesn’t tell this part. It also doesn’t tell the story of Achilles’s death.
The Iliad is gruesome, but war is gruesome.
How does Helen feel about what happened to her? Her voice is a deep cry at the end. Helen says, “would that I had died before.”

Death of Hector. Painting by Peter Paul Rubens.

The Classics Club

I attempted this challenge several years ago and almost made the goal of reading 50 books in 5 years. Life happened. I’m starting again.
The Classics Club began in 2012. The club’s emphasis is to encourage people to read the classics. If you are interested, this is the link for more information about the club: Club FAQS.

I began reading for this challenge on May 2, 2020. I plan to finish reading the 50 classics by May 2, 2025. This is a living list, not a strict list of books.
*I might change what I’ll be reading.

My Classics list:
1. The Iliad by Homer, a new translation by Caroline Alexander
2. The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles (reread)
3. The Aeneid by Virgil
4. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
5. The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
6. Anne of Green Gables (reread) by L. M. Montgomery
7. Herodotus-The Histories
8. Complete Poetical Works by George Herbert
9. Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers; The Necessity Nature, and Means of it by John Owen
10. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
11. Eleanor Roosevelt’s book, You Learn by Living
12. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
13. Curious, if True Strange Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell
14. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco
15. Memoir of Jane Austen by James Austen Leigh (a reread)
16. Agatha Christie, an Autobiography
17. The Complete Works of George MacDonald
18. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
19. The Metamorphoses by Ovid
20. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
21. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
22. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
23. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
24. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
25. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (reread)
26. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
27. The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy
28. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
29. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
30. Villette by Charlotte Bronte (reread)
31. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
32. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
33. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
34. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
35. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty
36. True Grit by Charles Portis
37. Watership Down by Richard Adams
38. The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas
39. The Brothers Karamazov  by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
40. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
41. Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
42. Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
43. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
44. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
45. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
46. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
47. Richard III by William Shakespeare
48. Henry V by William Shakespeare
49. Henry VI by William Shakespeare
50. The Tempest by William Shakespeare