Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, Novel (Oxford World’s Classics)  » Books  »
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  • I like historical books that capture life during Victorian England
  • The best edition of Shirley is the 2007 reprint from Oxford World’s Classics
  • I think hours passed very slowly before I got used to Bronte’s indulgent language
  • The passive Caroline is interesting in her thoughts
  • I recommend it to deep readers who are truly interested in the author


    • by RiccaBookish

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      I like historical books that capture life during Victorian England. I read Shirley because it was in touch with history, at least a bit more than Jane Austen’s novels. I was also seduced by clever passages (“as unromantic as Monday morning,” it says) on the cover. Books written by women in this period were expected to be of a style acceptable to society. There were few female authors who really pushed the boundaries. Charlotte Bronte wrote novels that were bold and defied social expectations. She published under a male pen name and later reclaimed authorship after success of her novels. The best edition

      of Shirley is the 2007 reprint from Oxford World’s Classics.

      The novel comes across as a “dare” to Bronte’s readers; it’s an ambitious project for the author of Jane Eyre. I doubt that readers of Jane Eyre and other light romantic fiction will like Shirley. It’s a difficult read. I often felt hungry after prolonged reading, as though I had mentally worked out my brain on a treadmill. I think hours passed very slowly before I got used to Bronte’s indulgent language. My interest was sustained by witty sentences and beautiful descriptions of landscapes and the lively voice of the narrator introducing characters and their eccentricities.

      Shirley takes the reader back to the Luddite uprisings. Workers were replaced by machines as industrialization spread across England. This led to riots. Businesses, if not burned down, remained unprofitable; trading too was badly affected by Napoleonic wars. The romance element apparently involves 3 of its main characters, Caroline, Robert and Shirley (Louis joins in much later in the story). The marriage plot is revealed and teases the reader to guess who ends up with whom.

      The passive Caroline is interesting in her thoughts. Her lonely reflections occupy long stretches that are often mystical and poetic. Bronte is prone to hysterical raptures which can be annoying.


      • Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, Novel (Oxford World's Classics)
      Women had limited opportunities for employment, and Bronte uses Caroline as a vehicle to voice her concerns in the hope of affecting change.

      The author is at fault sometimes for being repetitive. “Graceful” is a word so often repeated to describe Shirley, and I couldn’t count the many times Bronte has to animate “hand” gestures to set a romantic tone. She also uses Yorkshire dialect to add local color, but in print renders conversations inarticulate.

      All 3 characters experience suffering or physical illness. It changes them. Bronte again plays on the reader’s imagination, and at once one of them seems not likely to survive. The novel is kind

      to its characters, and their desires are granted fulfillment. I like the introduction to this edition as it gives a sense of the author’s life. Charlotte Bronte lost 3 of her siblings to disease at the time of writing. Explanatory notes are provided, and I like that they are balanced and careful not to sound too scholarly. Most annotations are references to biblical verses. In the end Bronte gives up nurturing feminist ideals. Why must it be resolved in patriarchal union? I was a bit disappointed by that. I recommend it to deep readers who are truly interested in the author.




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The review was published as it's written by reviewer in August, 2014. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 174081636440431/k2311a084/8.4.14
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