Book Reviews of Shirley (Penguin Classics)

Shirley (Penguin Classics)
Shirley - Penguin Classics
Author: Charlotte Bronte
ISBN-13: 9780140430950
ISBN-10: 0140430954
Publication Date: 7/30/1974
Pages: 622
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 7

3.7 stars, based on 7 ratings
Publisher: Penguin Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

4 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Shirley (Penguin Classics) on + 401 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I loved this book, though admittedly it reads a bit like a rough draft with several stories which are not very well integrated. In the introduction, Bronte claims Shirley is anything but a romance, and indeed the first few chapters are so dry (focusing on the very minor and not very interesting characters of the vicars and other religious personnel) that one needs patience to continue reading.

Indeed this is understandable given that Charlotte's beloved sisters Anne and Emily and her beloved but wayward brother Branwell all died the year she wrote the first half of the novel, and she was shutting down emotionally and withdrawing from the world. Later when she wrote the last half, she was past the deepest stage of grief.

Bronte also doesn't introduce her heroine Shirley until 1/3 of the way through the novel, establishes considerable interest in the character of Robert Moore, and then has him disappear most of the second half of the novel, and introduces another major character, Robert's brother in the last portion of the book. Finally, one sometimes has to strain to believe that individuals at this time really spoke as these characters sometimes spoke - especially the men when they on rare occasion pour out their hearts to other men in lengthy poetic prose. But often the prose of Bronte's dialogue is quite delicious and makes one wish that writers today had such a flair for such eloquent, emotionally expressive language.

The strong point of the novel: Charlotte Bronte excels in letting us into the mind and hearts of her two heroines, Caroline and Shirley, as well as in painting portraits of several of other characters, especially Robert Moore. Her rich attunement to the subtleties of the inner life of feeling (especially falling in love and the roller coast ride of affectionate rapport alternating with anguish-inducing withdrawal) and the innuendos of relationships between women and women, and men and women, is notable. Her portrayals of her primary characters are so compelling that her readers begin to deeply care about them and their happiness. The relationship between Robert and Caroline is particularly engaging, and likely to lead the reader to yearn, along with Caroline, for Robert to stand firm in his affections and not retreat into his very real and troublesome financial and business concerns.

The political subplot is also enlightening - a basically good man, Robert Moore, being drawn almost to bankruptcy while needing to industrialize his mill in order to remain in business, and as a result laying off workers and inciting a luddite rebellion against him. (Readers who are intrigued by this theme, might also enjoy Gaskell's North and South - and especially the BBC North and South film available on dvd). Bronte doesn't integrate the political plot very well with the novel, but socio-economic factors considerably influence Robert's motives and relationships more and more as the story progresses. They also lend historical interest to the novel, and a bit of substance beyond the
local color of minor individuals, the relationships between the main characters, and the very heartfelt inner life of Caroline.

Although most other readers find the book slow reading, I in contrast could barely put it down.......but did skip over the "boring" parts resulting from too many minor characters (especially of a religious nature) being given too much space in the novel. But the stories of Caroline, Robert and Shirley are so engaging that the reader may indeed find the novel truly delightful, and the conclusion likewise highly satisfying.

Tracy
reviewed Shirley (Penguin Classics) on + 401 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book, though admittedly it reads a bit like a rough draft with several stories which are not very well integrated. In the introduction, Bronte claims Shirley is anything but a romance, and indeed the first few chapters are so dry (focusing on the very minor and not very interesting characters of the vicars and other religious personnel) that one needs patience to continue reading.

Indeed this is understandable given that Charlotte's beloved sisters Anne and Emily and her beloved but wayward brother Branwell all died the year she wrote the first half of the novel, and she was shutting down emotionally and withdrawing from the world. Later when she wrote the last half, she was past the deepest stage of grief.

Bronte also doesn't introduce her heroine Shirley until 1/3 of the way through the novel, establishes considerable interest in the character of Robert Moore, and then has him disappear most of the second half of the novel, and introduces another major character, Robert's brother in the last portion of the book. Finally, one sometimes has to strain to believe that individuals at this time really spoke as these characters sometimes spoke - especially the men when they on rare occasion pour out their hearts to other men in lengthy poetic prose. But often the prose of Bronte's dialogue is quite delicious and makes one wish that writers today had such a flair for such eloquent, emotionally expressive language.

The strong point of the novel: Charlotte Bronte excels in letting us into the mind and hearts of her two heroines, Caroline and Shirley, as well as in painting portraits of several of other characters, especially Robert Moore. Her rich attunement to the subtleties of the inner life of feeling (especially falling in love and the roller coast ride of affectionate rapport alternating with anguish-inducing withdrawal) and the innuendos of relationships between women and women, and men and women, is notable. Her portrayals of her primary characters are so compelling that her readers begin to deeply care about them and their happiness. The relationship between Robert and Caroline is particularly engaging, and likely to lead the reader to yearn, along with Caroline, for Robert to stand firm in his affections and not retreat into his very real and troublesome financial and business concerns.

The political subplot is also enlightening - a basically good man, Robert Moore, being drawn almost to bankruptcy while needing to industrialize his mill in order to remain in business, and as a result laying off workers and inciting a luddite rebellion against him. (Readers who are intrigued by this theme, might also enjoy Gaskell's North and South - and especially the BBC North and South film available on dvd). Bronte doesn't integrate the political plot very well with the novel, but socio-economic factors considerably influence Robert's motives and relationships more and more as the story progresses. They also lend historical interest to the novel, and a bit of substance beyond the
local color of minor individuals, the relationships between the main characters, and the very heartfelt inner life of Caroline.

Although most other readers find the book slow reading, I in contrast could barely put it down.......but did skip over the "boring" parts resulting from too many minor characters (especially of a religious nature) being given too much space in the novel. But the stories of Caroline, Robert and Shirley are so engaging that the reader may indeed find the novel truly delightful, and the conclusion likewise highly satisfying.

Tracy
reviewed Shirley (Penguin Classics) on + 5426 more book reviews
Takes place during the Napoleanic wars in England
reviewed Shirley (Penguin Classics) on
http://miasbooklist.blogspot.com/2007/05/shirley-charlotte-bronte-rating-5.html