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Shirley (1849)

by Charlotte Brontë

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,049612,921 (3.69)1 / 257
Shirley was the second published novel by Charlotte Bronte, after Jane Eyre . It is a social novel set against the backdrop of the Luddite uprisings in Yorshire after the Napoleonic Wars, particularly in the depressed textile industry. The novel's heroine is given a boy's name by her father, who expected a son. The novel's popularity turned the distinctly male name Shirley into a distinctly female one.… (more)
  1. 20
    Miss Miles: or, A Tale of Yorkshire Life 60 Years Ago by Mary Taylor (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: Miss Miles, published in 1890 and centered on "Brontë country" in Yorkshire in the 1830s, was authored by Mary Taylor, who along with Ellen Nussey was one of Charlotte Brontë's two best friends from boarding-school days. It addresses the "women's issue" with particular emphasis on Taylor's belief that women had a moral obligation to be self-supporting and not to rely on men. Taylor's "Radical Dissenter" response to the "Tory Anglicanism" of Shirley.… (more)
  2. 20
    Nice Work by David Lodge (KayCliff)
  3. 10
    Sybil, or The Two Nations by Benjamin Disraeli (MissWoodhouse1816)
  4. 10
    Adam Bede by George Eliot (gypsysmom)
  5. 00
    Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (MissBrangwen)
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» See also 257 mentions

English (57)  German (2)  Slovak (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
I wanted to like this -- and I did like some aspects very much. However, those were not enough to balance out the unreasonable (and to my mind, unrealistic) characters and the too frequent passages that bored me.

What I liked: the setting (early 1800s in northern England), the part of the plot about the mill owners versus the workers, some of the romance

What I disliked: Caroline's weak character; Shirley demanding a man who can master her!! and she is also very weak in her dealings with Louis; the style of the writing especially in the descriptive passages. I also found the ending unconvincing.

( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
There is only about 30 years between the time of Jane Austen and that of Charlotte Brontë, and yet the economic outlook for women was entirely different. Shirley was only Charlotte Brontë's second novel. Many readers and critics consider it a less successful novel, but this seems a bit unfair.

Shirley ends with a double marriage, but they aren't marriages of romantic love. In Austen's novels attraction between men and women is often compared to manneristic dance movements, in Shirley it remains unclear to the very end which pairs are formed, an outcome quite unexpected.

In the time of Jane Austen, women from less well-to-do families set their eyes on marrying a man of wealth or at least a parson. In Charlotte Brontë's time this is very different. First of all, women could go out and work as governesses and provide for themselves. This is what one of the main characters, Caroline Helstone intends to do, although there is some doubt as to her abilities. Half-way through the novel, Caroline is spared this fate, as Mrs Pryor seems willing to care for her in exchange for companionship. Her motivation seems to be purely out of sympathy, although it is later revealed that she is actually Caroline's mother.

The other main character in the novel is a very different kind of woman. Where Caroline appears meek, Shirley Keeldar is entrepreneurial, a very strong woman. The prominence of Shirley in the novel also gives the novel a feminist characteristic.

Although large parts of the novel, and surely the first 400 pages make for fast and exciting reading, the final 200 pages seem a bit tiresome. Part of the excitement of the novel is the late introduction of Shirley Keeldar, who doesn't appear until after about 250 pages. The last 250 pages of the novel give meticulous descriptions of a large number of other characters who appear on the sidelines of Caroline's life. Instead of a novel of manners, it seems to be a study of character.

The historic setting of the novel is appealing and interesting, in the sense that it indicates a transition from a rural economy with landed gentry to the beginnings of the industrial revolution. The plot of the novel is situation at the moment where the industrial revolution is about to begin, and country folk rebel against it, trying to stop its development. Perhaps in describing the rustic characters Charlotte Brontë was trying to capture a world that was about to vanish, while she welcomed the new age with the strongest characters, recognizing that the new age would usher in many new developments that would in the end benefit women toward more independent lives.

Besides description of character, Shirley is also a novel of exquisite description of the landscape in western Yorkshire. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Mar 2, 2023 |
There is only about 30 years between the time of Jane Austen and that of Charlotte Brontë, and yet the economic outlook for women was entirely different. Shirley was only Charlotte Brontë's second novel. Many readers and critics consider it a less successful novel, but this seems a bit unfair.

Shirley ends with a double marriage, but they aren't marriages of romantic love. In Austen's novels attraction between men and women is often compared to manneristic dance movements, in Shirley it remains unclear to the very end which pairs are formed, an outcome quite unexpected.

In the time of Jane Austen, women from less well-to-do families set their eyes on marrying a man of wealth or at least a parson. In Charlotte Brontë's time this is very different. First of all, women could go out and work as governesses and provide for themselves. This is what one of the main characters, Caroline Helstone intends to do, although there is some doubt as to her abilities. Half-way through the novel, Caroline is spared this fate, as Mrs Pryor seems willing to care for her in exchange for companionship. Her motivation seems to be purely out of sympathy, although it is later revealed that she is actually Caroline's mother.

The other main character in the novel is a very different kind of woman. Where Caroline appears meek, Shirley Keeldar is entrepreneurial, a very strong woman. The prominence of Shirley in the novel also gives the novel a feminist characteristic.

Although large parts of the novel, and surely the first 400 pages make for fast and exciting reading, the final 200 pages seem a bit tiresome. Part of the excitement of the novel is the late introduction of Shirley Keeldar, who doesn't appear until after about 250 pages. The last 250 pages of the novel give meticulous descriptions of a large number of other characters who appear on the sidelines of Caroline's life. Instead of a novel of manners, it seems to be a study of character.

The historic setting of the novel is appealing and interesting, in the sense that it indicates a transition from a rural economy with landed gentry to the beginnings of the industrial revolution. The plot of the novel is situation at the moment where the industrial revolution is about to begin, and country folk rebel against it, trying to stop its development. Perhaps in describing the rustic characters Charlotte Brontë was trying to capture a world that was about to vanish, while she welcomed the new age with the strongest characters, recognizing that the new age would usher in many new developments that would in the end benefit women toward more independent lives.

Besides description of character, Shirley is also a novel of exquisite description of the landscape in western Yorkshire. ( )
  edwinbcn | Mar 2, 2023 |
Victober 2022 re-read: After revisiting works from each Bronte sister this year, I can categorically confirm that I am Team Charlotte. Even so, this is not her best novel. I'd say it's a battle between Jane Eyre and Villette for that title. Still, Shirley has tons of great passages. It's just very long and keeps switching focus.

Original review follows:
----------------------
After placing this on my did-not-finish shelf earlier in the year, I was motivated to give it another try after listening to the BBC Radio 4 dramatization. Having a basic idea of where the plot is going was very helpful and made it easier to stick with the book through all the divagations.

It's a long book. The beginning is a bit of a slog, and it wasn't until about a quarter of the way in that I got into enjoyable territory. It begins with a lot of description about the idiosyncrasies of minor characters, and the plight of Robert Moore, who wants to mechanize his textile mill but faces backlash from his workers who fear they will lose their jobs. Interesting in spots, but a bit snoozy, if you ask me. If this book were a modern publication, I'm sure it wouldn't leave the editor's desk without being severely tightened up and condensed. There is A LOT of description.

But once the narrative focused on the two women at the center of the book, my attention was caught. Caroline Helstone and Shirley Keeldar are both fascinating women in their own way, but very different. Caroline, the niece of the rector, is quiet and retiring on the outside but with the strength of steel underneath, and quite a few of her own strongly held beliefs. Shirley, the newly arrived inheritor of the manor, is whimsical and bright, a leader amongst followers.

The friendship of these two girls makes for a satisfying read. Their romantic experiences are of secondary importance. Indeed, it is hard to muster too much enthusiasm for the man that Caroline loves. Shirley's suitor is much more intriguing, even if he doesn't show up until the book is more than half over.

This is an interesting contrast to Charlotte Bronte's first published book, Jane Eyre. Where Jane Eyre is beautifully Gothic and emotional, Shirley deals more straightforwardly with the real world and ordinary people. Oh, there is a secret or two to be revealed, but nothing in the nature of Jane Eyre.

After reading Charlotte Bronte's letters recently, and then this book, I thought Caroline Helstone could be a reflection of how Charlotte Bronte saw herself, more so than any of her other characters. Although Caroline struggles with anxiety, she is not so separate from society as Jane Eyre or Lucy Snowe. She has something more of humility and patience mixed in with her strength. She does not thrive on being on her own against the world...ultimately, her world ends up giving her a place to belong. ( )
  Alishadt | Feb 25, 2023 |
As the author warned us, this book would be full of people who we don't like. Some of the most consarned-est Humans ever born live in this little part of York. There is Daniel Malone, a curate so full of himself; Mrs. Yorke--ugh, the meanest, most undeserving mother of nice husband and kids; and many more. The notes, since this deals with the early 19th century, and we don't know the literary and historical references, are mostly as Greek to me, since for most of them, you would have to further look up stuff in the Bible. No thank you. However, the author so understands human emotions and so values natural beauty and so craftingly shares this with us, her Reader, and even talks to us as if she knows us, that I will forgive her the crazy Greek notes, and say thank you, Charlotte Bronte, for a beautiful work. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brontë, Charlotteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bentinck, AnnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dei, FedoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mathias, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minogue, SallyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Phipps, HowardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reiher, JohannesÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Mrs. HumphryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolf, HorstÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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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Shirley was the second published novel by Charlotte Bronte, after Jane Eyre . It is a social novel set against the backdrop of the Luddite uprisings in Yorshire after the Napoleonic Wars, particularly in the depressed textile industry. The novel's heroine is given a boy's name by her father, who expected a son. The novel's popularity turned the distinctly male name Shirley into a distinctly female one.

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Shirley: "Pantheress"!
A woman in a man's world
Boldly makes her way
(StevenTX)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439866, 0141199539

 

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