Shirley by Charlotte Bronte


Not as dark or as intriguing as Jane Eyre、Charlotte Bronte wrote Shirley later in life, after her two sisters and brother Branwell died  from what may have been tuberculosis. The central character, Caroline Helstone, is an orphan living with her uncle, the rector for their district. Having no money settled on her, she has few prospects to marry.

The story is set in Bronte’s own home, the Yorkshire countryside, during the Napoleonic Wars of 1811-12. The plight of the poor and resulting  labor riots are a sub-theme. The cotton and wool mills around this area were just introducing new frames and machinery that put many men out of work.

A very slow-paced love story is taking place with these events as a  backdrop. A wealthy heiress, Shirley returns to take up residence at her family estate in Yorkshire. She attracts the attention of many suitors, including mill owner , Mr. Robert Moore. Unfortunately Caroline secretly dreams of becoming Moore’s wife.W e are left wondering to the end of the book which of the two women Mr. Robert Moore will choose as a wife. 

Bronte has tried to portray Shirley as a strong-willed woman with a mind  of her own. Though argumentative and stubborn, it turns out that she  actually wants to be dominated by the man she loves.Poor Caroline is a very weakly-drawn character so we  hardly notice her at all. 

I prefer Jane Eyre by far. Bronte was well-known when she published this novel,so it was widely-read at that time but it isn’t a classic by any means.

If you don’t like Jane Austen and the idea of women waiting around for a husband, then you shouldn’t read Shirley.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. momssmallvictories
    Feb 08, 2013 @ 17:16:55

    Thanks for summarizing the book so well…”If you don’t like Jane Austen and the idea of women waiting around for a husband, then you shouldn’t read Shirley.” That was exactly my gripe with Pride and Prejudice (although I did enjoy the end which saved it for me) which is what I read for the Back to the Classics Challenge. I appreciate the honest review, you’ve spared me some time from reading Shirley.


  2. JanetGS (@JanetGS)
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 03:09:49

    Jane Eyre is the only one of Charlotte Bronte’s books that I’ve read, but I do plan to read them all at some point, and Shirley is probably the next one I’ll read. I like the premise of the book, and I really enjoy the Yorkshire setting.


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