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Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

Shirley (1849)

by Charlotte Brontë

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,477312,471 (3.7)1 / 157

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English (28)  German (2)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
People hate to be reminded of ills they are unable or unwilling to remedy. Such reminder, in forcing on them a sense of their own incapacity, or a more painful sense of an obligation to make some unpleasant effort, troubles their ease and shakes their self-complacency. Old maids, like the houseless and unemployed poor, should not ask for a place and an occupation in the world; the demand disturbs the happy and rich...

Shirley may be a disappointment to readers expecting a romance of the same caliber as Jane Eyre. The titular character doesn't appear until well into the novel, and she never fully wrests the position of protagonist from Caroline Helstone. Bronte resorts to the device of a journal to reveal one character's innermost thoughts since that person is without a natural confidante among the other characters.

Shirley holds more interest as a social novel addressing issues of social, economic, and gender equity. The depression of 1811-1812 provides the backdrop for the action. It pits textile mill operator Robert Moore and others of his station against desperate unemployed mill workers. Both orphan Caroline Helstone, a dependent of her clergyman uncle, and heiress Shirley Keeldar are reluctant to accept the roles assigned to them as single women of marriageable age. Shirley's inheritance allows her to openly defy society's expectations, while Caroline's lack of options as her uncle's dependent is at least a partial cause of her mental and physical depression. Recommended particularly for readers with an interest in women's history/women's rights or 19th century English social history. ( )
  cbl_tn | Dec 7, 2014 |
Set during the Napoleonic wars, Shirley is partially a story of economics and industrialization. It's also partially a love story. Religion also plays a part in the novel. There is a reason it has stood the test of time. The characters are very strong, and one can truly get a feel for the era in which the novel is set. ( )
  thornton37814 | Nov 10, 2014 |
...but I perceive that certain sets of human beings are very apt to maintain that other sets should give up their lives to them and their service, and then they requite them by praise: they call them devoted and virtuous. Is this enough? Is it to live? Is there not a terrible hollowness, mockery, want, craving, in that existence which is given to others, for want of something of your own to bestow it on? I suspect there is. Does virtue lie in abnegation of the self? I do not believe it.This book is long, complicated, and polemical. It is full of numerous characters that are never proclaimed fully evil or utterly good, references that few modern readers would understand without the copious end notes, and bundles of plots weaving in and out of a myriad number of sociocultural subjects. The authors' views are as obvious in her text as the nose on your face; religion, politics, women's rights, you name it, she has something to say about it. Finally, what this all adds up to is not an adventure, nor a history, not even a treatise of various ideas on multifarious subject matters, but a romance, if that.

I loved it.

If history is both well written and well integrated into an intriguing yet formative fictional piece, I'll eat it up like cake. If characters and plots are sacrificed on the altar of theme and powerful insight, I'm all the happier. If my own personal views are presented in a form eloquent, intelligent, and explicit, better yet augmenting and honing my mind as my eye reads on, yes, I will cling to it in as biased a manner as I please. And, if it tickles my particular brand of humor, I will especially treasure it.

Will this book please everyone? No, far from it. The author is far too wrapped within her own thoughts and intentions within these pages, and not even my love blinds me to the emphatic disagreements I had with the book as a result. As these disagreements are few and far between the wonderfully long passages of masterful insight, I don't mind them much. What matters far more to me are many places of brilliance, the brightest of them being the ingenious way with which the author treats gaslighting, that all too common and insidious mechanism that dominates relations between women and men; as if the truth of defining action and reaction lay solely within the latter's power while the former is left to rot in silence.'It is not,' she resumed, much excited, - 'It is not that I hate you; you are a good sort of man: perhaps you mean well in your way; but we cannot suit: we are ever at variance. You annoy me with small meddling, with petty tyranny; you exasperate my temper, and make and keep me passionate. As to your small maxims, your narrow rules, your little prejudices, aversions, dogmas, bundle them off: Mr Sympson - go, offer them a sacrifice to the deity you worship; I'll none of them: I wash my hands of the lot. I walk by another creed, light, faith, and hope, than you.'I'm not surprised Woolf decried Charlotte Brontë within her [b:A Room of One's Own|18521|A Room of One's Own|Virginia Woolf|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327883012s/18521.jpg|1315615] for letting too much anger and indictment creep into her writing. I myself wonder at Brontë's fervent declamations, often uttered by female characters who later on act in complete opposition to their previously stated thoughts and feelings. Seemingly, perhaps, as this sort of idealism rarely results in a happy ending, at least for most suspenders of disbelief. Seemingly, as what matters is that Brontë did indeed pen her insight on paper that later was successfully published. She did exhaust most of her cutting wit and fine tuned psychological scalpel on the matter of women from infant to old maid, but there are men and children, poor and rich, politic and politic that may not be likable but always are true.‘I must read Shakespeare?'
'You must have his spirit before you; you must hear his voice with your mind's ear; you must take some of his soul into yours.'
'With a view to making me better; is it to operate like a sermon?'
'It is to stir you; to give you new sensations. It is to make you feel your life strongly, not only your virtues, but your vicious, perverse points.’
This book achieves exactly that. ( )
  Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
Well, for my 500th read book on goodreads, I decided to pick something that I'd been saving for a while, and I settled on Shirley, which was the last Charlotte Brontë novel I had left to read.

Shirley is full of my favorite Charlotte Brontë things, namely feminist social agitation and characters who step outside their expected gender roles. Shirley is obviously the best part of Shirley--she deserves a spot on the list of greatest characters of all time. Supposedly Charlotte told Elizabeth Gaskell that Shirley was what her sister Emily would have been "had she been placed in health and prosperity," but my unvetted personal opinion is that Shirley is what Jane Eyre would have been had she been placed in health and prosperity.

Shirley is not going to displace my current favorite Brontë novel (that would be hard to do), but it does seem like the novel that has the most of Charlotte in it, and for that reason alone it is worthy of being loved. Through the book there's also this undercurrent of desire to return to an earlier, happier time, which, when you think about how all the remaining Brontë siblings died while Shirley was being written, makes the book feel sadder than it appears on the surface. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Finished, finally. Towards the end I just never felt like picking it up and reading. Her writing is beautiful, but... "unromantic as a Monday morning" - my ass. It's twice as romantic as Jane Eyre, and slow as a result. ( )
  allisonneke | Dec 17, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brontë, Charlotteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Phipps, HowardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Of late years, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England: they lie very thick on the hills; every parish has one or more of them; they are young enough to be very active, and ought to be doing a great deal of good.
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Haiku summary
Shirley: "Pantheress"!
A woman in a man's world
Boldly makes her way

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439866, Paperback)

Set during the Napoleonic wars at a time of national economic struggles, Shirley is an unsentimental yet passionate depiction of conflict among classes, sexes, and generations. Struggling manufacturer Robert Moore considers marriage to the wealthy and independent Shirley Keeldar, yet his heart lies with his cousin Caroline. Shirley, meanwhile, is in love with Robert’s brother, an impoverished tutor. As industrial unrest builds to a potentially fatal pitch, can the four be reconciled?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:43 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Set in Yorkshire during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, this novel articulates the social realities of economic hardship, the Luddite riots, dissatisfaction with the government and an inadequate Church.

» see all 8 descriptions

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November Group Read: Shirley by Charlotte Brontë in 2014 Category Challenge

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Average: (3.7)
1 3
1.5 1
2 25
2.5 9
3 79
3.5 27
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4.5 12
5 56


3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439866, 0141199539

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