The Classics Club: Shirley

Shirley

My result for The Classics Club’s last wonderful Spin feature was the epic Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. If I’m honest I’m a little daunted by this choice. Due to the length and the fact I previously read Jane Eyre and it hadn’t lived up to my expectations. I tried to go into this with an open mind though.

Shirley takes us to a rural community in Yorkshire populated with a selection of landowners, clergymen, mill workers and their families. This is a quiet and rather comforting tale of day-to day life, work troubles, village festivals, friendship, marriage, and political and denomination arguments. Things are to be enlivened a little with the arrival of Miss Shirley Keeldar, a young and beautiful heiress. The women want to be her friend and the men want to marry her however Miss Keeldar is to surprise them all, she is one of those new breed of educated woman.

There is quite a large cast of characters in Shirley but the two I feel we get to know the best are the title characters Miss Shirley Keeldar and another young woman Miss Caroline Helstone. I found Shirley a fascinating woman to read about but it was Caroline who I liked and connected with the best. Caroline is the niece of a local reverend, she is quiet, pretty, educated and humble who is a lonely character until Shirley arrives. The two become fast friends and bring out good qualities in each other. Shirley emboldens Caroline while Caroline mellows Shirley. What let Jane Eyre down for me was how frustrating I found Jane so I was pleased to find I liked Caroline in this.

This is the third novel I have read by the Brontë sisters, having previously read Wuthering Heights by Emily and Jane Eyre by Charlotte. The first I loved while the latter I was disappointed by. With this in mind I tried to go into my second read by Charlotte with an open mind and I am glad I did. I found Shirley to be well written and a slow but a comfortingly slow read. I took my time with this novel, reading one chapter a night before going to bed. Taking my time meant I was able to take on board the amount of characters and also gave me time to reflect on Charlotte’s detailed style and some of the character’s convoluted speech style. After reading this I am feeling more positive about reading more by the Brontë sisters.

Shirley is a slow and comforting tale of a rural community from England’s past. I recommend if you are interested in reading English classics. This is now my 27th read off my Classics Club list. Good read.

Have you read this? What Brontë novel do you recommend I read next?

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “The Classics Club: Shirley

  1. “Slow and comforting” captures this book perfectly! I really enjoyed it, but mostly because I just like Bronte’s writing. Nice to hear you had a good time with it!

  2. I have read Shirley because I went on a Bronte reading spree at a certain point in my life – however, I remember very little about it if I’m going to be honest. Not because I disliked it at all – just it seems to have become a distant memory somehow.
    You’re doing well with your classics.
    Lynn 😀

  3. This is the only Bronte book I still haven’t read, but it’s on my Classics Club list so I’ll be reading it eventually. I’m looking forward to it after reading your review. I enjoyed both of Anne’s books, especially The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and I also liked Charlotte’s Villette, so I would recommend trying one of those next.

    1. Helen, I hope you enjoy Shirley when you have a chance to read it. Having read both the other sisters seems only fair I read something by Anne next. From what people have been saying I think I fancy The Tenant of Wildfel Hall first.

  4. I have Shirley on my reading list as well as Agnes Grey, none of which I have read yet. There is one called The Professor by Charlotte, which I know nothing about, but perhaps you should check it out.

    1. Carmen, I hope you enjoy Shirley when you have a chance to read it. I also have Agnes Grey by Anne and The Professor by Charlotte on my Classics Club list. I haven’t got a copy of either yet, I have my eyes peeled though.

  5. This is one of the final two novels I’ve not read by the Brontës, but I’m hoping to get to it soon. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I hope you get to some Anne soon, I fell in love with her.

    1. Geoff, I hope you enjoy Shirley when you have a chance to read it. I have both The Tenant of Wildfel Hall and Agnes Grey by Anne on my Classics Club list, and having read both the other sisters seems only fair I get to Anne next.

    1. Bella, I have both The Tenant of Wildfel Hall and Agnes Grey by Anne on my Classics Club list, and having read both the other sisters seems only fair I read one of hers next. When you decide to give Shirley a go I hope you enjoy it.

  6. I haven’t read Shirley, but I think you’re right about how to read a long novel – slowly and without rushing to the end, which I’m often tempted to do. I’m not sure what to suggest next – Years ago I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, which I remember liking quite a lot, more than Agnes Grey which I read a couple of years ago – shocked me a bit with the brutality of Agnes’s pupils.

    1. Margaret, I have both The Tenant of Wildfel Hall and Agnes Grey by Anne on my Classics Club list, and having read both the other sisters seems only fair I read one of hers next. From what I’ve heard I fancy The Tenant of Wildfel Hall first I think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s