Shirley Review


I finally finished Shirley. It’s not because I didn’t like it, it’s because of circumstance. Because of the holidays and several personal….crap episodes, for lack of any better phrase, my anxiety that I’ve been struggling with for the past 18 months or so was a lot higher. And if you’ve ever had anxiety to the point of attacks (or just below it, mine aren’t really attacks but they feel like it), then you know it’s not easy to concentrate on books. But this is no longer a personal blog really, it’s a book blog.

Let’s talk about some criticism. There are people that will say that this book is slow and all of Charlotte Bronte’s genius went into Jane Eyre and Shirley lacks everything. They’re words not mine. I totally understand that. It’s not the same pacing, mind set or anything as Jane. I mean, it is a different book. To me the thing that bothered me was all the French. I get the historical relevance of it. It was the lingua franca at a time. I also understand why it’s not translated in the book. It’s just tedious for those, like me, who don’t speak French to keep flipping back to the end notes and look up the translation. I also understand the argument that it is a slow book. There moments I did skim and I feel sad with saying that because I did love this book. It also bothered me that Shirley didn’t show up until page like 150 or so. She’s who the book is named after. And I think that it would be more aptly named Caroline or Shirley and Caroline. Louis isn’t even mentioned until 337. I would bring in people earlier, especially if they’re mentioned on the back flap. Maybe I’m just a little overly critical.

I do like how Bronte uses language. I do have full, long paragraphs underlined. The way that chapter 24 started was like one of my favorite things. She tells you from the get go that this isn’t a love story. She’s not lying to you. She really didn’t make this out to be a love story. There is love in it but it’s only one factor in it. It is about other things. Like the evil of machines and how they took people’s livelihoods. It’s who these woman really are. Even the chapter titles are amazing. Just go read the chapter titles because they’re entertaining.

I do think that there are some very modern ideas in this. Mr. Helstone’s opinion is one of them. He said that marriage isn’t necessary. He is very against marriage. I’m kind of with him at this point of life. Why marry? But I’m pretty sure my reasons are different. Caroline was totally not with that. I also liked the way the girls treated marriage. Caroline knew who she wanted to marry from the get go. She held on to the very end of book, even when Robert was anti-marriage. Shirley fought for loving who she married instead of marrying for convenience.

I also thought that Caroline and the whole mother thing was nice. It made me smile. Caroline seemed like more of a child than Shirley did to me. But both girls had an identity and developed an identity. Especially for the time, the girls were forward. Especially Shirley, or at least that’s what I think. They challenge what society says they should be. That’s okay. There’s thinks that need to be challenged. But all the relationships made me happy, friendship or love or familial.

Let’s talk about the social part of the book. There’s the revolt that the girls witness. I don’t blame them for sneaking out. I would have been scared especially with what happened before. I think that it was a good thing to have in there due to the social relevance. People were angry about their jobs. I don’t blame them. It still goes on today. Fighting over jobs will be something always been fought for. At first I had to figure out what wars they were talking about. I had to look it up and then I was like oh yeah. Those wars. It’s one of those moments my history minor doesn’t kick in. But in my defense my background is American not British history. It’s definitely an interesting time period. I like that Bronte brought all this political and social aspects into the book.

I loved this book. Not as much as Jane but I do love it. There’s underlining and notes and markings all over this book. I would totally read this again.


About frustratedreader

I'm just an average 20 something female that loses myself in a good book. Life has gotten hectic trying to balance small town living, working towards teaching overseas, finding that special someone and figuring out how life is supposed to work post-college. Thank God for books and knitting!

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