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Following the tremendous popular success of Jane Eyre, which earned her lifelong notoriety as a moral revolutionary, Charlotte Brontë vowed to write a sweeping social chronicle that focused on "something real and unromantic as Monday morning." Set in the industrializing England of the Napoleonic wars and Luddite revolts of 1811-12, Shirley (1849) is the story of two contrasting heroines. One is the shy Caroline Helstone, who is trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory and whose bare life symbolizes the plight of single women in the nineteenth century. The other is the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention.

A work that combines social commentary with the more private preoccupations of Jane Eyre, Shirley demonstrates the full range of Brontë's literary talent. "Shirley is a revolutionary novel," wrote Brontë biographer Lyndall Gordon. "Shirley follows Jane Eyre as a new exemplar but so much a forerunner of the feminist of the later twentieth century that it is hard to believe in her actual existence in 1811-12. She is a theoretic possibility: what a woman might be if she combined independence and means of her own with intellect. Charlotte Brontë imagined a new form of power, equal to that of men, in a confident young woman [whose] extraordinary freedom has accustomed her to think for herself....Shirley [is] Brontë's most feminist novel."

624 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1849

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About the author

Charlotte Brontë

2,254 books16.1k followers
Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist, the eldest out of the three famous Brontë sisters whose novels have become standards of English literature. See also Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë.

Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, the third of six children, to Patrick Brontë (formerly "Patrick Brunty"), an Irish Anglican clergyman, and his wife, Maria Branwell. In April 1820 the family moved a few miles to Haworth, a remote town on the Yorkshire moors, where Patrick had been appointed Perpetual Curate. This is where the Brontë children would spend most of their lives. Maria Branwell Brontë died from what was thought to be cancer on 15 September 1821, leaving five daughters and a son to the care of her spinster sister Elizabeth Branwell, who moved to Yorkshire to help the family.

In August 1824 Charlotte, along with her sisters Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth, was sent to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire, a new school for the daughters of poor clergyman (which she would describe as Lowood School in Jane Eyre). The school was a horrific experience for the girls and conditions were appalling. They were regularly deprived of food, beaten by teachers and humiliated for the slightest error. The school was unheated and the pupils slept two to a bed for warmth. Seven pupils died in a typhus epidemic that swept the school and all four of the Brontë girls became very ill - Maria and Elizabeth dying of tuberculosis in 1825. Her experiences at the school deeply affected Brontë - her health never recovered and she immortalised the cruel and brutal treatment in her novel, Jane Eyre. Following the tragedy, their father withdrew his daughters from the school.

At home in Haworth Parsonage, Charlotte and the other surviving children — Branwell, Emily, and Anne — continued their ad-hoc education. In 1826 her father returned home with a box of toy soldiers for Branwell. They would prove the catalyst for the sisters' extraordinary creative development as they immediately set to creating lives and characters for the soldiers, inventing a world for them which the siblings called 'Angria'. The siblings became addicted to writing, creating stories, poetry and plays. Brontë later said that the reason for this burst of creativity was that:

'We were wholly dependent on ourselves and each other, on books and study, for the enjoyments and occupations of life. The highest stimulus, as well as the liveliest pleasure we had known from childhood upwards, lay in attempts at literary composition.'

After her father began to suffer from a lung disorder, Charlotte was again sent to school to complete her education at Roe Head school in Mirfield from 1831 to 1832, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. During this period (1833), she wrote her novella The Green Dwarf under the name of Wellesley. The school was extremely small with only ten pupils meaning the top floor was completely unused and believed to be supposedly haunted by the ghost of a young lady dressed in silk. This story fascinated Brontë and inspired the figure of Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre.

Brontë left the school after a few years, however she swiftly returned in 1835 to take up a position as a teacher, and used her wages to pay for Emily and Anne to be taught at the school. Teaching did not appeal to Brontë and in 1838 she left Roe Head to become a governess to the Sidgewick family -- partly from a sense of adventure and a desire to see the world, and partly from financial necessity.

Charlotte became pregnant soon after her wedding, but her health declined rapidly and, according to biographer Elizabeth Gaskell, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness." She died, with her unborn child, on 31 March 1855.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,531 reviews
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews495 followers
May 28, 2023
Dear Charlotte, you and I will never be friends. I'm convinced of it now. I do get on with your sisters well, but not with you. It saddens my heart, but there it is. I cannot help it. It all started with your Jane Eyre. My most popular book, you would say. And I agree. It is. Only, I couldn't be part of the popular view. Not that I disliked it, but I couldn't say I really liked it either. However, I kept my hopes alive. To complete the Bronte canon, I still had two of your books on the shelf. And I was quite prepared to take another chance with you. But your Shirley made me realize that, however much I tried, I'll never be able to embrace you with my whole heart.

If it would be a consolation to you, I'll say I liked Shirley more than Jane Eyre. Storywise, Jane Eyre is the better one, I agree. But, when it comes to characters, Shirley surpasses Jane Eyre. At least, it was so to me. I can tell you quite honestly that I never cared much for your characters, but in Shirley, the four main characters, Shirley Keeldar, Caroline Helstone, and Robert and Louis Moore made me alter my opinion. They were not perfect, and indeed they had many faults. Still, I couldn't help but like them. And I thank you sincerely for presenting them to me. They were the sweet fruits of your sweet and sour pickle. Also sweet were the two romances. I don't know why you said when you began the story that this is no romance and that we shouldn't expect one, for what I read was certainly a romance.

Now may I go to the sour points? You, my dear Charlotte, adopt this preachy tone with your verbose language, and to tell the truth, it exasperates me to no end. You have a gift for flowery prose, I don't deny that. But I believe you overuse it. Also, you like to shower us with your views and knowledge to the extent of overshadowing the storyline. And I'd like to ask you why you didn't work hard on your subplot. You started it well, creating the right excitement and interest in the conflict between masters (mill owners) and workers. You worked on generating the right atmosphere for the brooding tempest. But when the tempest finally broke and did its damage, you lost your enthusiasm for its aftermath consequences. True, you came with a twist at the end, but to my excited mind, that wasn't quite enough.

Overall, Charlotte, I will confess to you that I liked your Shirley, perhaps more than what I've read of yours so far. I liked the fact that it was more character-driven. And I enjoyed the spirit with which you unfolded the story. I may not be a keen fan of your style, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating some of your qualities as an author. And despite our differences Charlotte, I promise you that I will read your Villette and complete my Bronte canon.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,257 followers
May 26, 2020
In the fast changing industrializing England of 1811-12 from farming to factories, ( the beauty of the green land, clear waters and blue skies are being destroyed rapidly by dark ugly pollution ) people will have to adapt or starve, machines are taking over sounds familiar ? A bleak future for some, others to prosper but a hiccup occurs ...Napoleon's long ruinous maybe endless war of 15 years is devastating Yorkshire's trade, embargoes by both France and her arch enemy Britain in the north of the nation like the rest of the realm, cause havoc...Robert Moore a good looking half -English, his father and Belgian mother born in that country in fact, has fled the bloody conflict across the windy channel to apparent safety , scraping up a few coins left by their deceased respectable parents, building a wool mill there, he has an older plain good heart sister Hortense, living with him and a younger even more plainer but quite intelligent, poor brother Mr.Louis a tutor, to a faraway wealthy family . Mr.Robert Moore 30, is very ambitious some say ruthless man, firing many employees and replacing them with a machine, trouble follows as in much of the nation, angry rioters called the Luddites former mill workers have been wrecking the new detested machines, threatening to kill the owners...in his small village the foreigner Robert, almost bankrupt is hated and a constant uneasy feeling of menacing violence, permeates the area. The handsome Mr. Moore has female admirers, delicate lovely Caroline Helstone, raised by a stern but not unkind parson an uncle Rev. Matthewston Helstone, and a rich beauty an orphan rather proud Shirley Keeldar, she owns the property that the mill stands on, loans Mr. Moore money to survive the economic difficulties. His brother Louis, unexpectedly arrives in the village with the family he works for, relatives of Shirley's and an arrogant uncle of her's tries to marry the highly reluctant niece, to an appropriate financially secure gentleman, settle all his troubles the loose ends, the always responsible man has his duties to perform...but things are complicated, Caroline loves Robert he loves Shirley or her money, and the penniless Louis loves Shirley...a rectangle you can figure out yourself, how to resolved the confusing situation. Not Charlotte Bronte's best book, ( obviously Jane Eyre is ) but still an interesting peek into the early Nineteenth Century's Industrial Revolution, the turmoil and deadly effects that happens in society to the ordinary people who could never really fight back in the place it all began, not so merry England.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 2 books2,964 followers
December 29, 2020
Such an interesting read. I love the writing and some of the dialogue is wonderful. The characterisation is fascinating too, though I still don't know how I feel about the Moore brothers!
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,361 reviews795 followers
December 17, 2015
...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 A Room of One's Own 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.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,050 reviews4,120 followers
August 26, 2016
Shirley is Charlotte’s sophomore slump. Her Kill Uncle. Her You Shall Know Our Velocity. Her Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. And so on. I don’t care how cute Mr Rochester is, this novel is a deeply vexing mess. Firstly, there are several plotlines and not one has the urge to intersect. The rebelling miners plot launches the novel in tandem with the idle curates poor-versus-rich plot, then dribbles away with the introduction of the second plot: Caroline’s crush on Mr Moore. This plot is soon replaced by the late appearance of Shirley, the most interesting character in the novel, whose bland friendship with Caroline stems the flow of Shirley’s androgynous awesomeness. This too dribbles away with too many pastoral scenes, misplaced polemics, increasingly tedious extended dialogues and domestic trivialities. The novel feels aimless and incompetent without recourse to the tropes of a form (i.e. gothic romance tropes) like Charlotte used in Jane Eyre, so bumbles along at a grinding pace offering succour in all-too-infrequent scenes of tension or conflict between Shirley and others, which soon peter out into dreary ten-page dialogues or ruminations studded with biblical references. I managed up to 392pp, which is three-quarters—if any devotees of this book want to fill me in on the last quarter please do. Disappointing! Next one up: Vilette.
Profile Image for Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.).
494 reviews304 followers
September 25, 2015
Charlotte Bronte's Shirley is one of the most beautiful, enriching, and satisfying novels that I've read this year. A novel borne from tragedy, Charlotte published Shirley in 1849; and while writing the novel, her brother Branwell died in 1848; followed shortly thereafter by the death of her sister Emily also in 1848; and then, horrifyingly, by her remaining sister, Anne, in 1849. In fact, it is believed that the characters of her two primary female protagonists in the novel, Caroline Helstone and Shirley Keeldar are modeled after her sisters Anne and Emily, respectively. Shirley was Charlotte Bronte's second published novel, following Jane Eyre which was published in 1847.

Shirley is not the 'bildungsroman' of a Jane Eyre; nor is it the description of the unrequited feelings of a Lucy Snowe in Charlotte's novel, Villette. Shirley, in my opinion, is a 'romance' (and more than one) within a detailed and descriptive portrayal of Yorkshire society and culture in 1811 and 1812 near the end of the Napoleonic wars and during the period of the Luddite riots in portions of the newly industrialized United Kingdom. This novel is gritty, earthy, hardy and hearty, and fully representative of the Yorkshire men and women of the moor country of northern England.

While Shirley is full of the romance and passion of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte serves up her heroines and heroes in a much more realistic and prosaic fashion. Perhaps not so witty, or lyrical, as Austen's, Charlotte's characters are so well described as to be very full of life and passion that I began to palpably experience their fears, anxieties, joys, desires, and sadness. One quickly becomes taken up with the lives and feelings of young Caroline Helstone, her uncle, the Reverend Helstone; Miss Shirley Keeldar, and her mysterious older friend, Mrs. Pryor; the mill-owner, Robert Moore, his sister Hortense, and his older brother, the tutor, Louis Moore. We also meet a collection of somewhat roguish curates, a pair of matronly 'saints,' and some wonderful examples of the hard-working Yorkshire working class folk. This is an equal-opportunity' novel when it comes to characters.

As a reader, one might be inclined to feel that the novel starts slowly, and maybe it does; yet, it is necessary. Charlotte Bronte starts setting the scene by carefully and descriptively introducing her characters: the men and women of her imaginary Yorkshire County of Stillborough (or, 'Still'bro'), the clergy, the mill-owners and businessmen, the workers and their families, and the landed gentry all begin to take their proper place as the novel unfolds. After a chapter or two, the novel's plot begins to build, like a storm at sea, with periodic 'rogue waves' containing great drama and pathos combined with the 'lulls' of Ms. Bronte's beautiful descriptions of her character's interactions and experiences with the Yorkshire pastoral, i.e., Caroline's and Shirley's flower gardens; the dells, oak forests, and runs; and the ruins of the abbey in Nunnwood (a great name for a forest with a ruined abbey!). I loved and was intrigued with the novel's contrasting of the darkness or bleakness of the perceived impacts associated with the mechanization of the mills on the Yorkshire business and working class, and the emotional strength, tranquility and serenity gained by the characters in their frequent forays into the countryside and interludes with Nature.

The story is told through the use of different literary devices and voices too. Sometimes Charlotte Bronte uses the omniscient third-person narrator; sometimes the first-person introspective or reflective voice is used; and she even uses the journal entries and written word of her characters to tell the story. Knowledge about events and things said, or seen, are sometimes withheld or not shared with the reader. This tends to give the novel a sense of mystery and imparts a very realistic feel, and reflects how information was actually shared and acted upon by men and women during this period. So, in some sense, while Shirley can be perhaps construed as a novel about the different levels of society in a culture, it is clearly also about differences between the sexes, and the men and women living and loving in that same society and culture.

In the main, however, the novel really swings back and forth from the perspective of two of fiction's finest female protagonists -- the shy and sensitive Caroline Helstone; and her close friend, the bold and fearless Shirley Keeldar. We watch, with satisfaction, as Caroline becomes more confident and assertive, and as Shirley becomes more settled and less impetuous. The reader is treated to the experience of the growth of their sophisticated relationship and friendship with one another; and we begin to realize the real effect and meaning of their relationship and its impact upon those within their sphere of influence. Conflicts and misunderstandings are made right, and intentions and true feelings are made clear and acted upon.

The novel is really about change -- changes in the individuals, changes in relationships, changes in how men and women perceive themselves, and changes in the way of life in a community. It is also about linkages -- linkages of people via relationship and friendship, linkages of couples in love and marriage, even the re-establishment of a relationship long thought lost, and the linkage of the working class with new ways of manufacturing and production.

In conclusion though, this novel -- Shirley -- is about love. It is about the power of love, a steadfast love, and an unrepenting love. This is a powerful proto-feminist statement too; unrelenting in its patronage of the value of women in society and in the basic human relationship between a woman and a man. These are women you can admire and respect -- and love.

I loved this novel and rank it very high in the pantheon of all of the great books I have read. All I can say is, "Bravo, Ms. Bronte, Bravo!"
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
May 27, 2022
Shirley is a not-quite-comfortable hybrid of a romance and an anti-silver fork novel, the latter as assuredly as Thackeray’s trenchantly sarcastic Vanity Fair, which is set during the same period. It is among the first of the industrial novels that demonstrate the desperation of the poor during the beginning of the industrial revolution’s inexorably swift changes.

Bronte probably heard accounts from oldsters about troubles when the looms were being replaced by machines, and there was certainly trouble enough during her own time—there is a mid-Victorian flavor, a particularly middle-class outlook on history as well as economics, that doesn’t always accord with Regency accounts of same. For example, Bronte’s insistence that uprisings were always led by wily, unscrupulous outsiders, and not by angry, desperate people themselves.

There is also a distinctly early Victorian veneration of Wellington, who in 1811 had a year to go before he attained the double promotion that made him into the hero who strode mightily through all the Bronte kids’ juvenilia antipodal to their various Byronic hero-villains. Alone out of all the Brontes’ published works, Wellington gets his veneration here, a year before his rise to national consciousness and popularity.

As for the hybrid nature of the novel, it is also a harbinger of what Trollope and others would soon do in delving into ecclesiastical matters. There are a lot of clergymen of all kinds in this novel, good, bad, and a mix, as there is a lot of church politicking at the village level. Perhaps this preponderance of clergy was prompted by Bronte’s reaction to the horrified reviews of Jane Eyre that so grieved her, with their condemnations of the book’s immorality.

Finally, then there is a sympathetic and protracted look into that most risible of figures, old maids—and at the same time, a pungent look at disastrous marriages, and the many reasons why they fail; though the early chapters feature men condemning women for rendering marriage hellish, the entire book breathes in answer from the female point of view.

On the first page, the unnamed narrator insists that the book is not a romance, which is only partly true. Robert Moore is certainly not much of a hero, especially to modern audiences as he tramples all over Caroline’s faithful love through most of the book, in favor of his mill. Louis Moore, the secondary hero, doesn’t even enter the novel until well past half-way, and then mostly we hear about him, with a few scenes on stage. But those few scenes are delicious with the wit demonstrated in Jane Eyre, and in both brothers, though we see the Bronte Mark I Byronic hero (none of them could resist), here they are corseted strictly within acceptable Victorian tropes.

There is a great deal of humor gleaming here and there, like Dr. Langweilig of the Moravian preachers (Langweilig = boring in German), and many wisecracking asides by the narrator.

Even Bronte's insistence that the novel isn't a romance is tongue in cheek. The tropes of early Victorian romance are definitely there—the near-deathbed scene with the rejected heroine pining away, the sudden and dramatic revelation of a long-lost mother, a gunshot wound that renders the hero helpless to be tenderly taken care of, while he remorsefully counts up his sins and arises determined to be a better man to his long-suffering heroine.

I think if one regards the novel as one of female agency built around female friendship, then the book’s disparate bits fall into place. Even those old maids gain agency when times are troubled by organizing social welfare to keep the desperately poor from starving. And there is a great deal about female education being crucial to success in life, whether as wives, mothers, managers of estates, or solitary women expected to live in service to others. (Bronte deals with that platitude with justified sarcasm in a laugh-out-loud bit of a scene.)

Nor does Bronte forget the servants, many of whom have speaking roles in this novel. Bronte acknowledges the unseen work of servants, for example in disparaging the fine oak drawing room in Shirley Keeldar’s manor for the grim labor it requires of servants, scrubbing with bees-wax laden cloths.

“Women read men more truly than men read women. I’ll prove that in a magazine paper some day when I have time, only it’ll never be inserted; it will be ‘declined with thanks’ and left for me at the publisher’s.”

At the time this was written, Shirley was a masculine name. The use of it for a heroine signified another strong-willed female (Jane Eyre having previously been published to resounding success), and in that the reader is not disappointed. But the story is less Shirley Keeldar’s than it is Caroline Helstone’s.

Some biographers feel that Shirley and Caroline are fictional depictions of Emily and Anne, who both died during Charlotte’s writing of the book. The eponymous Jane had come out of her in one white-hot session (which goes a way to explain the weird structure of the last quarter of the book), but this one took a protracted time to complete, as Charlotte dealt with, and then grieved over, these family deaths.

If Caroline and Shirley do represent Anne and Emily, these are vastly idealized depictions. From anything I’ve read, poor Emily was stump-silent in social situations, uncomprehending of much social interaction and unable to deal, much preferring to escape entirely and tramp isolated through the countryside, the wilder the better. The distortions peopling Wuthering Heights, whose wild passions threw the Victorian reading world into a tizzy, indicate a fierce inner world, and a strong will fueling it. I wonder if we glimpse a bit of the real Emily not so much in Shirley’s masterful handling of servants, clergy, gentlemen, and nobles alike, but in her partisanship for every old and ugly dog she met.

And in good, plain-spoken, unshakably honorable and moral, retiring and obedient little Caroline, we can see Anne in her silent struggles for faith—a struggle Charlotte would have recently seen in the poetry left behind in her dead sister’s papers.

Each sister was given the devoted Byronic hero lover that neither had in real life, and above all is lovingly depicted the ardent and loyal friendship that I suspect does mirror the real bond those sisters shared until the end.

Reread May 2022

Not much to add, besides reflecting on those Victorian tropes. Charlotte is striking out into new territory in so many ways, but can't quite get all the way there; both her heroines have to take to their (almost) deathbeds when the men they want don't seem to want them (Caroline at the ripe old age of seventeen, pining for a man in his thirties!) and Shirley for her man who, she insists, must be "masterful" to ensure that she will always "do good." From the wording it's clear she is NOT asking for an abusive brute. She knows what those are. She wants a hot guy, and knows one when she sees one, which the vaunted Sir Percy is not. But in Victorian times up there in Yorkshire, proper maidens didn't say so.

That aside, in her defense of old maids, Charlotte states that they just need to dress respectably enough not to injure the sight of men. I wish she could have gone all the way, to say that the old maids ought to be able to dress to please themselves. As for men, they don't dress to please old maids. They certainly dress to please themselves.

What with the Victorian outlook and tropes, this novel doesn't slide into top tier as does Mrs. Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, for me, but it's still readable, especially the humorous bits!
Profile Image for Victorian Spirit.
221 reviews720 followers
August 2, 2021
Esta era la obra de las hermanas Brontë sobre la que menos referencias tenía de entrada, ni siquiera conocía la sinopsis, y esto ha jugado muy a favor en mi caso. Pensaba que me iba a encontrar con una obra mucho más dramática y pesimista, teniendo en cuenta el contexto en el que fue escrita, pero me he encontrado una novela bastante amable, cuyo ritmo muy pausado al principio se fue acelerando hasta un final bastante ágil, sostenido en diálogos, en el que volaban las páginas.
La elección de la Regencia como contexto me parece todo un acierto, porque está poco explotado. Yo, particularmente, nunca había leído sobre la pre-revolución industrial y, en ese sentido, me ha gustado mucho empaparme de los primeros pasos de la lucha obrera.
Una de las cosas que más he disfrutado del estilo de Charlotte han sido sus diálogos, que se convierten en muchos momentos en auténticas batallas dialécticas y que proporcionan algunos de los mejores momentos de la novela, donde la tensión sexual no resuelta entre los protagonistas alcanza cotas altísimas.
Charlotte defiende en esta obra la capacidad intelectual de la mujer y el derecho a su independencia de pensamiento y acción en un entorno controlado en exclusiva por los hombres.
Como punto negativo, destacaría que la trama social del libro queda interrumpida en el tramo final, siendo luego resuelta en pocas líneas en el epílogo. Asimismo, existe un cierto deus ex machina en relación a un personaje secundario que me pareció algo forzado, pero no dejan de ser pequeños detalles que se le perdonan fácilmente. Una obra muy recomendable.

RESEÑA COMPLETA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNxxb...
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews44 followers
February 2, 2019
Shirley, Charlotte Brontë
Shirley, A Tale is an 1849 social novel by the English novelist Charlotte Brontë. It was Brontë's second published novel after Jane Eyre (originally published under Brontë's pseudonym Currer Bell). The novel is set in Yorkshire in the period 1811–12, during the industrial depression resulting from the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. The novel is set against a backdrop of the Luddite uprisings in the Yorkshire textile industry.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه می سال 2002 میلادی
عنوان: شرلی؛ نویسنده: شارلوت برونته؛ مترجم: فریده تیموری؛ تهران، اکباتان، 1363، در 854 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، سمیر، 1389؛ در 632 ص؛ شابک: 9789642200719؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 19 م
عنوان: شرلی، اثر شارلوت برونته، مترجم: مرضیه خسروی؛ تهران، روزگار، 1393؛ در 688 ص؛ شابک: 9789643745073؛
عنوان: شرلی، اثر شارلوت برونته، مترجم: رضا رضایی؛ تهران، نشر نی، 1393؛ در 847 ص؛ شابک: 9789641853930؛
رمان «شرلی»، اثری ست از: «شارلوت برونته»، که در سال 1849 میلادی منتشر شد. این رمان دومین اثر نثر «شارلوت برونته» است که پس از: «جین ایر» منتشر شده، رمان راوی افسردگی، و یاس صنعتی سال‌های 1811 و 1812 میلادی، در اروپاست، که از پیامدهای آن می‌توان به جنگ‌های ناپلئونی، به ویژه جنگ سال 1812 میلادی، اشاره کرد. طرح، و بازگویش این رمان، در روستایی در یورک‌شایر رخ می‌دهد. رمان بگونه‌ ای بازگو کننده ی شرایط نهان، و پشت پرده ی جنبش لادیسم است، جنبشی که در آن، کارگران به مخالفت با صنعتی شدن کارخانجات نساجی، و بالطبع مبارزه با آن پرداختند. شارلوت برونته، در شرایط روحی دشوار کار نوشتن این رمان را به پایان رساندند، چون ایشان در طی یک‌سال بگذشته: دو خواهر (امیلی، و «آن») و برادر خویش (براندول) را، به دلیل بیماری از دست داده بود. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jesús De la Jara.
728 reviews91 followers
August 14, 2019
"¿Y qué haré, qué haré yo cuando me arrebaten a Robert? ¿A dónde iré? ¡Mi Robert! Ojalá pudiera llamarlo mío con todo derecho, pero yo soy la pobreza y la incapacidad; Shirley es la riqueza y el poder, y también la belleza y el amor, no puedo negarlo"

Un buen libro que lamentablemente no terminó de gustarme tanto como "Jane Eyre" ni "Villette". En mi modesta opinión estamos ante un cambio de Charlotte Bronte en su estilo y su tema a tratar. Extrañé el uso de la primera persona y los paisajes góticos y las situaciones oníricas (aunque sí hay algunas). Me ha parecido, a pesar que no es la última obra de la autora, que como dice en el prefacio tentó con cambiar bastante el estilo ("Tienes ante ti algo real, frío y sólido; algo carente de romanticismo", escribe) y esto a mi parecer no ha calzado de la mejor manera. Quizás con más años hubiera evolucionado un poco hacia ello. Me parece que Gaskell se siente mucho más cómoda en ese estilo realista y sobre todo "costumbrista".
Y es por ello mi calificación, la primera parte de la novela lamentablemente demasiado pesada para mi gusto, cosa que para mí siempre le resta a un libro y más si se demoran tanto en introducir al personaje o a los personajes principales cientos de páginas. Me parece que se pudo haber resumido mucho más la presentación del ambiente rural y urbano de la ciudad así como de sus personajes (realmente insoportables sobre todo los varones) para luego recién ir a la historia principal y a lo que en realidad Charlotte es experta: la introspección, las ensoñaciones y el amor. Cosa que a pesar del párrafo introductorio que comenté es imposible separar a la autora de esos grandes temas.
Como siempre está el otro gran tema de Charlotte: la desesperanza, que están en todas sus novelas. Creo que es un tema a considerar pues desde luego para su época es algo bastante novedoso el de las protagonistas que no siempre son perfectas ni llevan una vida ligera sino con bastante carga emocional y patética, me hace pensar en las corrientes mucho más posteriores como el surrealismo donde el problema a tocar es el papel del hombre aunque claro los motivos de esa desesperanza son muy diferentes.
La historia nos cuenta un episodio que a mi manera de ver puede llamarse novela histórica (nueva innovación de esta novela en la obra de la autora y que a mi parecer no está excelentemente tratado). Estamos en el año 1812 en Inglaterra, Napoleón todavía es combatido por las principales monarquías europeas y mientras el rey inglés ha declarado las "Reales órdenes" una serie de medidas impopulares que venían a ser la respuesta a la política exterior ordenada por Napoleón (el famoso "Bloqueo continental") pero que a cambio ocasionó una gran depresión, con la consiguiente pobreza y hambruna en las clases bajas.
Robert Moore es uno de los industriales afectados por ellas pero también gracias a sus máquinas modernas se gana un gran problema con los trabajadores de textiles (tema como mencioné ampliamente desarrollado por Gaskell, Dickens y toda la generación de la segunda mitad del siglo XIX y desde luego la corriente realista). Aquí como comentaba no me pareció ver a la mejor versión de la autora, muchas escenas bueno no resultaban tan bien pintadas como sí lo sabe hacer cuando se habla de romanticismo e introspección.
Tenemos a la prima de Robert Caroline Helstone, hija del rector de la ciudad el Sr. Helstone, quien es el típico personaje femenino de Charlotte que ya hemos visto en Jane Eyre y Villette. Tiene desde luego muchas cosas que contar y siempre estará pendiente de su primo. Hasta que llega Shirley, una joven heredera, una novedad en la galería de personajes de Charlotte, que aunque tiene un desarrollo y constitución muy atractiva no llegó a encantarme, muchas de sus peroratas por momentos resultan un poco artificiales o exageradas. Es una personaje que tiene bastante de "masculino" para la época, es más la misma autora lo dice. Me pareció eso algo muy novedoso y especial. Shirley parece querer a Caroline de forma muy especial, la protege y asume como digo un papel que ella misma se jacta de hacerlo. No teme cuando hay peligro ni cuando se le encarga cuidar de las mujeres.
Esto es sólo el corazón de la obra en mi opinión, Charlotte gasta muchas páginas (quizás algunas innecesarias) en contextualizar y hacer una crítica enorme a la parte religiosa, no a sus principios (aunque en realidad nunca aprecié tanta decepción religiosa como en esta obra) sino a los encargados de conducirla. Los rectores y sobre todo los coadjutores Donne, Malone y Sweeting son descritos como personajes sin sentido, machistas, tercos, carentes de talento, casi de determinación y profundamente viles.
Es una obra un poco heterogénea, como mencioné el inicio muy lento y recargado, el medio y el final demasiado corto a mi parecer, no la sentí tan bien organizada como sus otras novelas. La relación entre Caroline y Shirley también tiene puntos altos y muy buenos pero algunas situaciones y diálogos incluso de personajes secundarios como que decaen un poco la obra.
Ya estoy finalmente feliz de haber acabado y sólo me queda "El profesor" para decir que leí todas sus grandes obras.
Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,551 reviews603 followers
February 14, 2022
[3.5] Bronte's two heroines, Shirley and Caroline, struggle to assert themselves in the male dominated world of Yorkshire in the early 19th century. I loved the depiction of a strong female friendship as well as Bronte's unsentimental character studies. I was surprised by how frank she was about her characters' melancholic depressions.

However, listening to Georgina Sutton's excellent narration is the only way I could imagine getting through this 624 page epic. I know many novels of this era are lengthy, but I became impatient with the padding.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,219 reviews1,963 followers
May 21, 2022
4.5 stars
This was Charlotte Bronte’s second novel, written over the period when her three siblings died. This is a historical novel set in 1811-12 during the period of the Napoleonic wars. It was also set during an industrial depression where many workers were being laid off. New machinery was replacing people and this machinery was being destroyed by the Luddites. The locations (country house wise) and some of the events are based on historical events.
An interesting note: up to this point Shirley had been a man’s name and it was Bronte’s use of Shirley for the name of the main character which led to Shirley to primarily a female name. This novel has a third person narrator, unlike Bronte’s other two novels.
Relationships between the sexes is a major focus in Shirley and especially men’s expectations of women:
“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. Then to hear them fall into ecstasies with each other’s creations, worshipping the heroine of such a poem – novel – drama, thinking it fine – divine! Fine and divine it may be, but often quite artificial – false as the rose in my best bonnet there. If I spoke all I think on this point; if I gave my real opinion of some first-rate female characters in first-rate works, where should I be? Dead under a cairn of avenging stones in half an hour.”
Although there is a fair amount of romance in the novel and you can’t really escape it in the last quarter, but as the narrator points out there is more to it:
“If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never were more mistaken. Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie? Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard. Something real, cool, and solid, lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto.”
There is an element of this being a “condition of England” novel and there were others around by Gaskell, Disraeli and Carlyle. There are descriptions of Luddite disturbances, but as Carlyle says of the working class:
“that great dumb toiling class which cannot speak”
They don’t really get a voice here either, what they do say is laced with what is perceived to be religious and political extremism. The real solution to the problems here is (like many other Victorian novels) a sort of laissez-faire paternalism where the enlightened middle classes do what’s right by the poor ignorant workers. That’s very important to Bronte here, there is a distinct contrast between the good and bad clergy and between good and bad mill owners.
As a result of all this the novel is many-layered and the characters interesting and sometimes contradictory. There are plots and sub-plots meandering around and the analysis of gender relations is very good
Profile Image for Amanda.
840 reviews343 followers
March 28, 2019
What an amazing surprise! Only time will tell, but this may be my new favorite classic, more beloved than Jane Eyre. I was so impressed with the cast of characters, the female friendships, the nature writing, the socio-political context, the depictions of depression and insomnia, and the ever presence of fantasy: fairies, goblins, specters, haunted locations and – heck yes – even mermaids. I am so looking forward to rereading this book and picking up all the little details I missed the first time. I cannot imagine ever running out of new things to ponder when reading Shirley.
Profile Image for nastya .
450 reviews289 followers
March 29, 2023

Charlotte attempted to broaden the scope, to touch on politics, economics, lower class, write from the close third person perspective from different men. And she failed spectacularly.

The only time this book is bearable is when it focuses on the friendship of two heroines and those are a few pages. Everything else is just laughable. The only good, poor character basically has the personality of a golden retriever. Every male character she writes sounds the same. The dialogue is ridiculous. Oh and the melodrama, the whole second half is never-ending ridiculous melodrama and for me to be able to appreciate it must be dialed up a notch. Go big, go The Monk levels, bring out the flying devil.

Also this is a supposedly social novel but really, what reality is this? Charlotte in the end of the day is interested in romance and this book has not one, but two! Both very badly written, but the more the better?

Still, it’s Charlotte, even when she’s judgemental and patronizing, she has a talent for readable prose. Until the dullness, boredom and ridiculousness hits you and you just pray for this book to end.

"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. Then to hear them fall into ecstasies with each other's creations—worshipping the heroine of such a poem, novel, drama—thinking it fine, divine! Fine and divine it may be, but often quite artificial—false as the rose in my best bonnet there. If I spoke all I think on this point, if I gave my real opinion of some first-rate female characters in first-rate works, where should I be? Dead under a cairn of avenging stones in half an hour."
"Shirley, you chatter so, I can't fasten you. Be still. And, after all, authors' heroines are almost as good as authoresses' heroes."
"Not at all. Women read men more truly than men read women. I'll prove that in a magazine paper some day when I've time; only it will never be inserted. It will be 'declined with thanks,' and left for me at the publisher's."
"To be sure. You could not write cleverly enough. You don't know enough. You are not learned, Shirley."
"God knows I can't contradict you, Cary; I'm as ignorant as a stone. There's one comfort, however: you are not much better."

(Great point in the beginning, but then I feel called out by her by the end.)

This sloppy novel just barely held together with very questionable scotch tape. Until it didn't.
Profile Image for library ghost (somewhat ia) .
241 reviews164 followers
December 19, 2022
no one and i mean NO ONE writes love stories like charlotte brontë.

apart from having excellent romance, this also has great female friendship and all the major characters are chefs kiss.

its one flaw is that the story takes around 100 pages to start and those are the dullest 100 pages known to humanity but all the same this book made me giggle and blush (i famously don't do either) and scream whenever certain characters interacted and so engrossed that i wouldn't have stopped reading it if my house was set on fire so yess i regret nothing.
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,750 reviews1,268 followers
February 9, 2016

The Jew-basket, wow! This book was my introduction to the Jew-basket, and I eagerly await its appearance in other 19th-century British novels. No, it's not a basket full of tiny Jews. Nor is it a basket in which a Jew is lowered into a medieval well to be drowned. The Jew-basket is a basket into which the gentleladies of the neighborhood contribute their knit or sewn household crafts; the basket rests in their house for a month as pin cushions, napkins, baby socks, card-racks, and penis cozies are added to it, then it moves on to the next house. Once the basket is full of Etsy-style tchotchkes, a gentlelady takes it around to the houses of the neighborhood to sell its overpriced contents to menfolk, with the proceeds going to the conversion of the Jews.

(No Jews were harmed in the making of this novel. There are no actual Jews in the novel.) However, we can't say the same thing about governesses. Caroline Helstone, one of the novel's two heroines, imagines a future without love or marriage and therefore aspires to be a governess - anything to keep a bored, unchallenged mind busy. Her close friend old Mrs. Pryor, having formerly been a governess, warns her off it with a terrific and fascinating speech: "I was early given to understand that 'as I was not their equal,' so I could not expect 'to have their sympathy.' It was in no sort concealed from me that I was held a 'burden and a restraint in society.' The gentlemen, I found, regarded me as a 'tabooed woman,' to whom 'they were interdicted from granting the usual privileges of the sex,' and yet who 'annoyed them by frequently crossing their path.' The ladies too made it plain that they thought me 'a bore.' The servants, it was signified, 'detested me'; why, I could never clearly comprehend. My pupils, I was told, 'however much they might love me, and how deep soever the interest I might take in them, could not be my friends.' It was intimated that I must 'live alone, and never transgress the invisible but rigid line which established the difference between me and my employers.' My life in this house was sedentary, solitary, constrained, joyless, toilsome. The dreadful crushing of the animal spirits, the ever-prevailing sense of friendlessness and homelessness consequent on this state of things, began ere long to produce mortal effects on my constitution - I sickened. The lady of the house told me coolly I was the victim of 'wounded vanity.' She hinted, that if I did not make an effort to quell my 'ungodly discontent,' to cease 'murmuring against God's appointment,' and to cultivate the profound humility befitting my station, my mind would very likely 'go to pieces' on the rock that wrecked most of my sisterhood - morbid self-esteem - and that I should die an inmate of a lunatic asylum."

It's so great that we no longer have any jobs today so alienating.

The novel's flaws: it's too long, it starts out very slowly and tediously, the titular character isn't introduced until p. 154, so we really get to know the other heroine, Caroline, much better. There's a tedious plot twist involving Mrs. Pryor that we can see coming two miles away. The socio-historical aspects of the novel (the violent riots against the mill owner Robert Moore) are not well or convincingly integrated with the other plotlines. A major love interest doesn't show up until quite late. Small, unimportant characters are too dwelt-on. We are told, unnecessarily and melodramatically, that a particular child will be dead soon. It doesn't matter, because the child is not a main character and the death is not brought into the narrative. Much of the romance is saccharine. Mr. Sympson is fantastic, though.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,625 followers
July 2, 2016
As you can see from my rating, I was quite disappointed with this novel. However, it wasn't until about 2/3 into it that I realized that this book wasn't going to blow me away, and so I decided to read on till the end.
I admit that I had high expectations to this novel since Jane Eyre, a masterpiece by Charlotte Brontë, is amongst my favourites classics. Yet, it is peculiar how Shirley is so different from anything else I've read by Charlotte Brontë.
First of all, this novel comes with a very overt narrator who keeps addressing the reader and makes sure to somewhat include the reader in the process of the storytelling. I'm not very fond of that kind of narrator, simply because it takes me out of the fictional illusion that I'm in and reminds me that this is just a story.
Second of all, I regret to say that the story behind this novel is very thin and dull. In the beginning, the narrator tells us that the exciting parts are going to be the middle and the end, but getting to those parts I was very much disappointed.
As stated earlier, I kept on reading because Charlotte Brontë is after all My favourite of the Brontë sisters, but this novel was certainly a disappointment.
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
576 reviews7,771 followers
October 1, 2014
Meh. Meh meh meh meh. Meh. What a boring novel. Everything that made Jane Eyre such a masterpiece is completely missing from this novel. What was Charlotte thinking? I don't even think Brontë purists can find any pleasure in this novel. It's empty. It has no heart. The reason why I'm not giving this one-star is because I only give books that I hate one-star. I don't hate this novel, I'm just severely disappointed. People have told me not to get excited about The Professor either so I don't know what to expect from it. Oh Charlotte.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,110 reviews6,575 followers
January 22, 2021
DNF @ 15% (might retry at a later date)

Charlotte literally warns us in the first chapter that the beginning of the book is boring so tell me why I was still shocked that it was a snoozefest 👁👄👁
Profile Image for Kate.
1,243 reviews2,225 followers
September 2, 2020

This was quite honestly boring as hell. This had some fantastic social commentary, feminism and a great female friendship, but suffered from long, drawling passages and a lack of actual plot. It was fine but
Profile Image for Laleh.
52 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2023

ابتدای قرن ۱۹ جنبش های مهمی رخ میده مثل لادیسم و...این جنبش هم نتیجه ی قطع شدن فروش پارچه در زمان جنگ های ناپلئونی و درگیری کارخانه دار ها با کارگرهاس.شارلوت برونته با نوشتن یه رمان عاشقانه،تاریخی و اجتماعی به توصیف وضعیت زن ها،کارگرها،کارخانه دار ها و... در ان زمان میپردازد،اما مگه میشه برونته ها کتابی بنویسن و عشق در اون سهم مهمی نداشته باشه؟
داستان لذت بخشی که اگر بخش های اولش رو در نظر نگیریم و "کلبه هالو" رو شروع جدی ماجرا حساب کنیم قطعا بهمون حس و حال زیبایی از دوره ویکتوریا رو القا میکنه:)
Profile Image for Ruth.
36 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2020
Shirley was a difficult book to read, even more
so for Miss Brontë to write. The atmosphere of
her book is somber, subdued and moves very
slowly, distinctly different from Jane Eyre.
Whilst writing this book, Charlotte Brontë lost
her siblings to tuberculosis: Branwell September
24, 1848, Emily December 19, 1848 and Anne
May 27, 1949; Shirley was published in 1849.
Charlotte memorialized her sisters in this novel,
Emily is Shirley and Anne is Caroline; I was very
aware of how present Charlotte was in these
scenes, as if it was the last time she would ever
be with them, the tone softer and caring.
"To admire the great, reverence the good, and be
joyous with the genial was very much the bent of
Shirley's soul." Of Shirley (or Emily)

Shirley does not enter the scene until about one
third of the way through, it wasn't until I entered
section three, my attention was finally engaged
Although the backdrop is industrial revolution of a
Yorkshire Milltown, the factory troubles fade into
the background and narratives of the main
characters become the focus.
Is it her best work, no, but it is her most
significant, she had the most to say.
(Of the Virtuous Woman)
"King of Israel! your model of a woman is a worthy
model! But are we, in these days, brought up to be
like her? Men of Yorkshire! do your daughters reach
this royal standard? Can they reach it? Can you help
them to reach it? Can you give them a field in which
their faculties may be exercised and grow? Men of
England! look at your poor girls, many of them fading
around you, dropping off in consumption or decline;
or, what is worse, degenerating to sour old maids—
envious, backbiting, wretched, because life is a desert
to them; or, what is worst of all, reduced to strive, by
scarce modest coquetry and debasing artifice, to gain
that position and consideration by marriage which to
celibacy is denied. Fathers! cannot you alter these
things? Perhaps not all at once; but consider the
matter well when it is brought before you, receive
it as a theme worthy of thought; do not dismiss it
with an idle jest or an unmanly insult. You would
wish to be proud of your daughters, and not to
blush for them; then seek for them an interest and
an occupation which shall raise them above the flirt,
the manoeuvrer, the mischief-making talebearer.
Keep your girls’ minds narrow and fettered; they
will still be a plague and a care, sometimes a
disgrace to you. Cultivate them—give them scope
and work; they will be your gayest companions in
health, your tenderest nurses in sickness, your most
faithful prop in age."
Profile Image for Dolors.
541 reviews2,285 followers
March 19, 2013
Maybe the less romantic novel by Charlotte, but her most mature work, an account of the changing times in the early XIXth century.
The story follows the lives of four main characters. Miss Helstone, a young woman with no prospects, niece of a Curate in Yorkshire, her serious cousin Mr. Moore, a businessman who struggles to earn his living, Miss Shirley, a spirited heiress of a great fortune and her tutor Mr. Moore's brother, Louis.
Being a Brontë's novel though, there's not one, but two romances going on, presented in the most extravagant way and what makes the novel even more compelling is that its characters have flaws and make mistakes and learn their way along the way with the reader.
In the end, we find realistic characters who fight to find their position in the world, each in their own way, the story being
a faithful portrait of women searching for independence and men challenging the order of the old regime.
I think that Charlotte used Shirley and Miss Caroline Helstone to speak her mind in several subjects such as politics or religion and that these two characters, being both so different from each other, were what Charlotte Brontë would have liked to be in her real life. Miss Helsonte, pious, humble and full of patience and good sense, is able to win over her man's heart. Shirley, with her strong character and of independent means, who is bold enough to speak her mind about business and politics with men, manages to marry who she chooses (and I'm sure Charlotte would have liked to be able to do that!!).
I could also glimpse Elisabeth Gaskell's influence in this work, the subject of industrialisation reminded me of "North & South" and the story had many similarities about the peripheral characters and the problems they had to deal with.
All in all, a rewarding reading with great final chapters which close the novel with a bitter sweet taste.
Don't be mistaken though, this is no Jane Eyre, so don't expect accelerated pulse and breathtaking dialogues because you won't find them in here.

Some quotations:

"I will never be where you would not wish me to be, nor see nor hear what you wish unseen and unheard"

" 'Never! We will remember that with what measure we mete it shall be measured unto us, and so we will give no scorn, only affection'
' Which won't satisfy, I warn you of that. Something besides affection - something far stronger, sweeter, warmer - will be demanded one day. Is it there to give?' "

"Am I to die without you, or am I to live for you?"
Profile Image for Carol Rodríguez.
368 reviews24 followers
February 12, 2017
A riesgo de parecer osada, diría que tras haber leído los cuatro libros de Charlotte Brontë, "Shirley" es el que más me ha gustado (digo esto habiendo leído "Jane Eyre" hace más de diez años y teniendo pendiente una relectura de "Villette" en condiciones diferentes a cuando lo leí la primera vez), siendo el que menos "El profesor".

"Shirley" es el claro ejemplo que de existen dos tipos de libros lentos: 1) los lentos en los que no ocurre nada, no te llevan a ningún sitio y son perfectos para aburrirse; 2) los lentos que poquito a poquito te van contando cosas con delicadeza, te van haciendo partícipe de las vidas de los personajes y los paisajes que frecuentan y te van introduciendo de una forma en la historia en la que al final parece que estás dentro del libro y conoces a los personajes de toda la vida. Sobra decir que "Shirley" se encuentra en el segundo grupo.

Me gustó y enganchó de principio a fin. Decidí tomármelo con calma y saborearlo y la experiencia ha sido de lo más envolvente y satisfactoria. Además, los personajes están todos perfectamente construidos y, aunque haya algunos que acaben cayendo un poquito mal, están tan bien hechos que precisamente esa maldad que gastan queda de lo más real. No en vano están inspirados en personas reales, conocidos y vecinos de Charlotte. Y entre eso y lo pausado de la narración queda todo de lo más realista.

Nuestras dos protagonistas, Caroline y Shirley, son tan opuestas y a la vez se complementan tan bien y son tan buenas amigas que se convierten en dos personajes memorables e inolvidables. Shirley, inspirada en Emily Brontë, es todo carácter, ímpetu y osadía; Caroline (con la que me he sentido más identificada, y no solo por el nombre) es más melancólica, reflexiva, pasa gran parte del libro estancada con su vida y sus sueños. Y cada una tiene algo que aportar a la otra. Ellas dos, con sus personalidades, su carácter y sus reflexiones feministas, son la esencia y la vida de esta novela. Fascinantes.

Ha sido un placer leer al fin este libro y compartirlo con dos grandes amigas (Elena y Magrat) en lectura conjunta. Jamás olvidaré nuestras teorías locas, nuestras exaltadas notas de audio con los giros del argumento, los shipeos... Todo ello sin duda ha enriquecido todavía más la experiencia de leer "Shirley". Mi primera gran lectura de 2017.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
153 reviews715 followers
April 7, 2023
“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.”
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,065 reviews1,477 followers
August 4, 2019
Oh, Charlotte. What am I to make of this book? The same author who penned the wonder that is Jane Eyre felt very different from the one who wrote out this societal-focused and small-town-political slog of a novel. Once this initial section was over the true focus of the novel was revealed (the one detailed in the synopsis) and this is when I began to enjoy the story. Everything beyond the first 100 pages was a joy to read, and full of the excellent character creation and formidable and fearsome protagonists I know the Brontes for, but I almost quite the book entirely early on, for how little I found to like in the early portion of it and how confusing it was to initially navigate this novel.
Profile Image for Ayu Palar.
171 reviews
April 21, 2009
Compared with other novels by Charlotte Bronte, Shirley is the toughest one for me to read. Narrated through third person POV, it is not easy to get acquainted with the novel. Another reason is because there are too many characters to remember. However, it is still a distinguished novel from the Victorian era. It might not be as enjoyable as Jane Eyre yet it is rich in characterizations and theme.

The novel is set in Napoleon era, in a village where machinery just enters the society. As we often witness in history books, the invention of machines often caused new social order, or to be exact, social riot. This social setting enriches the theme of Shirley. in fact, it generates the plot, I must admit.

The characters in Shirley are not flawless but that makes them more humane. For instance, we might consider Robert Moore one of the heroes here, however he’s not your prince charming. He’s harsh, a bit cruel sometimes and opportunistic. You may not sympathize with him at the beginning, but as his character grows, you will understand why Caroline Helston adores him so much.

Even though Bronte never intended to create Shirley as a romance, we cannot misread the romance betwen Caroline who loves Robert who intends to marry Shirley Keeldar for the sake of money. Things get worse when Shirley’s uncle, her guardian, forces her to get married soon to someone superior than her. While actually Shirley falls in love with someone with no fortune! The romance is narrated well; the ending is quite predictable yet we’re not brought to it easily. For me, Charlotte Bronte’s romance is always engaging.

With Shirley, Charlotte Bronte proves that she is a master of storytelling.

And now, I want to re-read Jane Eyre!

Profile Image for Carmo.
667 reviews472 followers
April 14, 2021
Como pano de fundo temos a Revolução Industrial com toda a sua inovação e melhoramentos de produção, a par do descontentamento de quem viu o seu trabalho braçal substituído por máquinas. Por sua vez, os empresários estão a braços com a crise provocada pelas Guerras Napoleónicas que provocaram o declínio das exportações.

Neste clima tumultuoso move-se o principal núcleo de personagens e a história deste livro. E esta é uma história com um forte cariz feminista e dura critica social. Duas heroínas irão fazer frente, cada uma à sua maneira, ao patriarcado que as rodeia e orientou as suas vidas até ali. Irão também dar provas da sua nobreza de carácter ao colocar a amizade acima de tudo, inclusive dos interesses pessoais.
Carolina é a mais romântica e frágil das duas, um tanto melodramática até, Shirley por sua vez é o furacão que enfrenta com intrepidez qualquer homem que a espicace. Porém, não senti em Shirley o mesmo carisma de Lucy Snowe em Villete ou de Jane em Jane Eyre. Estas eram mulheres sós no mundo e sem um vintém, calcaram caminhos espinhosos até concretizarem os seus sonhos. Já Shirley está apoiada numa cómoda fortuna e não precisa de casar ou lutar para conquistar uma posição social ou conforto financeiro. Exige respeito e insubmissão, o que não é pouco, mas a posição em que está já lhe facilita grandemente a tarefa.
O mais significativo da história gira à roda destas meninas e dos motins nas fábricas. O resto é algo caótico, a narrativa não cresce, as personagens não se revelam, (só Carolina é um permanente “livro aberto”), e há personagens que entram sem muitas explicações e saem sem deixar rasto.
Nas últimas cem páginas ganhou fôlego e tudo ficou compostinho no final.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,219 reviews168 followers
September 25, 2021
Finally finished my slow re-read of Shirley. First read decades ago, I remembered none of it and I can understand why. It starts well, I was interested to read about the mills etc but she really doesn’t do much with that storyline, after all the mill boss is one of her leading men. She also strangely doesn’t introduce Shirley until a third of the way in, a huge mistake as she’s such a fabulous character but perhaps Bronte didn’t want to upset the Victorian mindset. And that’s probably why Charlotte is my least favourite Bronte. She wants women to be independent and think for themselves and respected but she also wants the fairytale nice husband who will be a firm but fair head of the household. She wastes a huge chunk of the middle of the novel with Caroline(the main heroine) suffering some wasting illness due to the man she loves ignoring her. Mrs Prior and her escape from an awful husband is glossed over as he’s dead now, so we won’t speak ill of him, so unsatisfying. It’s quite clear from this novel though how restricted women’s lives were and their lack of opportunities, unable to live fulfilled lives especially if they are spinsters.
So I did enjoy reading it (strangely reading slowly seems to help get past all the boring and worrisome bits and find the bits I like). I do like her writing. I will probably re-read Villette again one of these days.
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