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Shirley (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 26, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141439866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439860
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Modern Library of the World's
Best Books

"When Charlotte Bronte removed her heroines from the home, she loosened the constrictions that bound a woman to her stove and cradle, and launched an inquiry into the nature of feminine experience that was to change the course of modern fiction."

--Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Charlotte Bronte lived from 1816 to 1855. In 1824 she was sent away to school with her four sisters and they were treated so badly that their father brought them home to Haworth in Yorkshire. The elder two sisters died within a few days and Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne were brought up in the isolated village. They were often lonely and loved to walk on the moors. They were all great readers and soon began to write small pieces of verse and stories.

Once Charlotte’s informal education was over she began to work as a governess and teacher in Yorkshire and Belgium so that she could add to the low family income and help to pay for her brother Branwell’s art education. Charlotte was a rather nervous young woman and didn’t like to be away from home for too long. The sisters began to write more seriously and published poetry in 1846 under male pen names – there was a lot of prejudice against women writers. The book was not a success and the sisters all moved on to write novels. Charlotte’s best-known book, Jane Eyre, appeared in 1847 and was soon seen as a work of genius. Charlotte really knew how to make characters and situations come alive.

Charlotte’s life was full of tragedy, never more so than when her brother Branwell and sisters Emily and Anne died within a few months in 1848/49. She married her father’s curate in 1854 but died in 1855, before her fortieth birthday.

Lucasta Miller is the author of The Brontë Myth.

More About the Authors

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Customer Reviews

Just couldn't get interested in the book, and quit reading after a few pages.
Ann M. Gahagen
Jane Eyre is most Bronte fans favorite novel, but Charlotte found Shirley superior to Jane Eyre.
Elizabeth Crowley
This novel has very real and well developed characters and an incredibly compelling plot.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By mp on April 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Charlotte Brontë's 1849 novel "Shirley" really delivers on the already realized potential of her first novel, "Jane Eyre." Though the novel is named for the character Shirley Keeldar, the novel really has no one set protagonist - the duties are mostly shared in the relationship between the fiesty and wealthy Shirley, and the lovelorn Caroline Helstone. Set against a backdrop of social and economic unrest, as the swelling ranks of the unemployed react against increasing mechanization of mill production, "Shirley" takes in a broad range of national and international issues. Even when the personal and romantic narratives seem to dominate the novel, Brontë does an extraordinary job of keeping the questions of social discontent present to the reader.
"Shirley" opens on a view of Briarfield, a small mill community in Yorkshire, where the labourers are restless and hungry. The mill owners, Robert Moore and Hiram Yorke, are anxious with reports of murderous actions against mechanizing mill owners elsewhere, and suffering under governmentally restricted trade. The gentry are disaffected with the mill owners, and more concerned with England's continuing conflicts with Napoleon overseas. The main concerns of the novel revolve around all of these conflicts - conflicts of interest, conflicts between classes, and the wider conflicts of nations. Brontë's social vision seems to ask throughout the novel if any of the normal sorts of personal problems even matter in the face of the sufferings of the masses.
Briarfield's leading citizen is Reverend Helstone; he along with a motley mix of curates accurately represents the microcosmic problem that affects the macrocosm of England in the time of the novel, 1811-12.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Tracy M VINE VOICE on July 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
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 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.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 1998
Format: Paperback
While I loved this book, there were some things I didn't like, but none that mean it doesn't deserve five stars. This is my favourite Charlotte Bronte book. i believe there is too much focus on Jane Eyre, or perhaps even Villette. There are a few coincidences in this story, especially one, which I can't mention without giving away part of the story. However these are common in CB, Villette being overun with them, and Jane Eyre ending up on the doorstep of her long lost cousins. Shirley is more believable. Another comment it the long speeches the characters often make. Apart from these though, this is one of my most loved books. It has been neglected, I feel, by the fact that the first 50 pages are very difficult to read, after that though, the story becomes apparent, and it's worth it. Something strange is that the heroine of the title doesn't appear, and is not mentioned until page 200, although she fairly dominates the rest of the book. Perhaps 'Shirley and Caroline' would have been a more appropriate title
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Despite Charlotte Bronte's disclaimer that the reader will find this book "a dinner of bitter herbs" it is nonetheless a must-read classic of 19th century litterature. Many themes combine in this book; the expansion of industrialism and the dissapearance of the English countryside; the place of women in society; feminine loyalty and friendship; the conflicts of love and work, evangelism and tradition. It is perhaps the most uneven and at the same time the most interesting of the Bronte books.
While it lacks the symmetrically designed shape of Jane Eyre or the clear-eyed study of obsession of Villette, it lets the imaginative reader glimpse the Bronte sisters themselves between the lines. The characters of Shirley and Caroline are based on Emily and Anne Bronte, both of whose deaths occurred during the writing of the novel. It is a tribute to sisterly love and a fantasy that lashes back at grief. Some may find the ending a romantic cop-out, but this cannot detract from the many good qualities of this fascinating novel
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