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3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  20,886 Ratings  ·  565 Reviews

Following the tremendous popular success of Jane Eyre, which earned her lifelong notoriety as a moral revolutionary, Charlotte Brontë vowed to write a sweeping social chronicle that focused on "something real and unromantic as Monday morning." Set in the industrializing England of the Napoleonic wars and Luddite revolts of 1811-12, Shirley (1849) is the story of two contra
Paperback, 624 pages
Published June 29th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1849)
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Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne BrontëVillette by Charlotte BrontëAgnes Grey by Anne Brontë
Best of Brontë
7th out of 13 books — 309 voters
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeCrime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Best Books of the 19th Century
200th out of 925 books — 4,989 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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...but I perceive that certain sets of human beings are very apt to maintain that other sets should give up their lives to them and their service, and then they requite them by praise: they call them devoted and virtuous. Is this enough? Is it to live? Is there not a terrible hollowness, mockery, want, craving, in that existence which is given to others, for want of something of your own to bestow it on? I suspect there is. Does virtue lie in abnegation of the self? I do not believe it.
This bo
MJ Nicholls
Shirley is Charlotte’s sophomore slump. Her Kill Uncle. Her You Shall Know Our Velocity. Her Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. And so on. I don’t care how cute Mr Rochester is, this novel is a deeply vexing mess. Firstly, there are several plotlines and not one has the urge to intersect. The rebelling miners plot launches the novel in tandem with the idle curates poor-versus-rich plot, then dribbles away with the introduction of the second plot: Caroline’s crush on Mr Moore. This plot is soon ...more
helen the bookowl
As you can see from my rating, I was quite disappointed with this novel. However, it wasn't until about 2/3 into it that I realized that this book wasn't going to blow me away, and so I decided to read on till the end.
I admit that I had high expectations to this novel since Jane Eyre, a masterpiece by Charlotte Brontë, is amongst my favourites classics. Yet, it is peculiar how Shirley is so different from anything else I've read by Charlotte Brontë.
First of all, this novel comes with a very ov
Sherwood Smith

Shirley is a not-quite-comfortable hybrid of a romance and an anti-silver fork novel, the latter as assuredly as Thackeray’s trenchantly sarcastic Vanity Fair, which is set during the same period. It is among the first of the industrial novels that demonstrate the desperation of the poor during the beginning of the industrial revolution’s inexorably swift changes.

Bronte probably heard accounts from oldsters about troubles when the looms were being replaced by machines, and there was certainly t
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Charlotte Bronte's Shirley is one of the most beautiful, enriching, and satisfying novels that I've read this year. A novel borne from tragedy, Charlotte published Shirley in 1849; and while writing the novel, her brother Branwell died in 1848; followed shortly thereafter by the death of her sister Emily also in 1848; and then, horrifyingly, by her remaining sister, Anne, in 1849. In fact, it is believed that the characters of her two primary female protagonists in the novel, Caroline Helstone a ...more
Feb 08, 2016 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Jerricho Cotchery
Shelves: own, fiction

The Jew-basket, wow! This book was my introduction to the Jew-basket, and I eagerly await its appearance in other 19th-century British novels. No, it's not a basket full of tiny Jews. Nor is it a basket in which a Jew is lowered into a medieval well to be drowned. The Jew-basket is a basket into which the gentleladies of the neighborhood contribute their knit or sewn household crafts; the basket rests in their house for a month as pin cushions, napkins, baby socks, card-racks, and penis cozies a
Ayu Palar
Apr 20, 2009 Ayu Palar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Boof
Compared with other novels by Charlotte Bronte, Shirley is the toughest one for me to read. Narrated through third person POV, it is not easy to get acquainted with the novel. Another reason is because there are too many characters to remember. However, it is still a distinguished novel from the Victorian era. It might not be as enjoyable as Jane Eyre yet it is rich in characterizations and theme.

The novel is set in Napoleon era, in a village where machinery just enters the society. As we often
Barry Pierce
Oct 01, 2014 Barry Pierce rated it it was ok
Meh. Meh meh meh meh. Meh. What a boring novel. Everything that made Jane Eyre such a masterpiece is completely missing from this novel. What was Charlotte thinking? I don't even think Brontë purists can find any pleasure in this novel. It's empty. It has no heart. The reason why I'm not giving this one-star is because I only give books that I hate one-star. I don't hate this novel, I'm just severely disappointed. People have told me not to get excited about The Professor either so I don't know ...more
Feb 19, 2015 Sanaa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-read
[3.5 Stars]
Favorite tidbit while reading this book: Shirley was largely a male name until this book's publication, at which time more baby girls were given the name. Good job, Charlotte, you changed like... everything.

Shirley's father wanted a boy, didn't get one, so the next best thing was for him to name his new baby chick a boy's name. Which leads me then to wonder if Shirley (as a female character's name) is sort of meant to denote she was a tomboy, kind of like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. In any c
Friend the Girl
Oct 29, 2008 Friend the Girl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves a good Napoleonic love epic
Shelves: yearly-reread
Ahh, Shirley . . . I must read this book once a year, because it affects me so profoundly when I do read it. Though the heroine of Shirley is actually named Caroline, and she isn't a swashbuckling dame or a fiery temptress or really even anything remarkable, she makes for a remarkable read and is surrounded by brilliant people and events. It's a chaotic time in England during the height of the Napoleonic Wars and timid Caroline's world is turned upside-down, but the events that really hook me ar ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Daniella rated it liked it
This book was extremely hard to rate because I appreciated it more than I enjoyed reading it.

The novel itself was extremely drawn out and dry, and despite it's important themes, it didn't have a heart. Or even...a genre. I mean it has more commentary on romance than actual romance and it strays too much from the initial Luddite issues for me to really consider it a true historical.
It was more like a character study of the main two women, one of which we didnt even meet until 150 or so pages in.
Melissa Lenhardt
Aug 20, 2012 Melissa Lenhardt rated it it was ok
I did not like Shirley.

That could be my entire review. After reading a novel that was at least 200 pages too long, it probably should be. Because it is late and I am not feeling too charitable towards Charlotte Bronte I will make this brief.

There were many things I disliked about Shirley () but the one thing that I did like was the character of Shirley. Where Shirley was lively and engaging, the other characters were dull, overwrought and over described. I may be in the minority but I think it i
Jan 22, 2016 (P)Ila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shirley, terzo romanzo dell'autrice inglese Charlotte Bronte se consideriamo che Il professore venne scritto prima ancora di Jane Eyre, è stato per me quanto di più lontano potessi immaginare: questa frase non so ancora adesso, a distanza di qualche giorno da fine lettura, se abbia più una connotazione positiva oppure negativa.

Il fatto che il libro rientri nel genere "romanzo sociale" mi fa propendere verso la seconda: mi spiego meglio, per quanto ami quest'autrice non posso non essere giusta e
Derek Davis
Dec 16, 2010 Derek Davis rated it it was amazing
It's not exactly a novel in the usual 19th century sense. It pretty much lacks plot, changes direction several times, loses track of characters, runs on way too long and is used as a platform for a platter-load of mini-essays. And the title character first appears on page 274.

So why 5 stars? Because it may be the most beautifully written work I've read. Every word is exactly chosen, exactly placed and adds to the cumulative effect of its sentence and paragraph. This may sound too precious or co
Mar 07, 2013 SarahC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The novel Shirley was a pleasant addition to my reading this winter. I love the British novel, but I especially love the one that is little-known to me and takes me by surprise. I must admit that after reading last year and being once again blown away (in spite of past readings) by Emily's Wuthering Heights, I had not felt emotionally ready to tackle another Bronte novel. So glad I did this time though, because it was exactly what I needed this winter.

Shirley is so different from Jane Eyre, an
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
Maybe the less romantic novel by Charlotte, but her most mature work, an account of the changing times in the early XIXth century.
The story follows the lives of four main characters. Miss Helstone, a young woman with no prospects, niece of a Curate in Yorkshire, her serious cousin Mr. Moore, a businessman who struggles to earn his living, Miss Shirley, a spirited heiress of a great fortune and her tutor Mr. Moore's brother, Louis.
Being a Brontë's novel though, there's not one, but two romances
Jul 20, 2009 Sherien rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
Charlotte Bronte reminds us—readers that Shirley is “…something unromantic as Monday morning” (chapter 1). Well I found it true because I see Shirley more as a social novel than a romance. The social background depicts the Napoleonic War and the industrial depression caused by it. This is where I found hard to get to the core of the book because I do not have a wide knowledge about that historical-social background. Another thing that is hard for me to get through is that this book seems to have ...more
Laurel Hicks
May 16, 2016 Laurel Hicks rated it really liked it
Wellington, Luddites, Milton, Romance, snobbery, strong women—Charlotte Brontë throws them all into this seething pot. It's a book that can't be read slowly.
Katie Lumsden
Mar 26, 2016 Katie Lumsden rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, wonderful and atmospheric as Charlotte Brontë always is.
Monty Milne
Dec 31, 2015 Monty Milne rated it liked it
I plunged into this with a purr of approval but gradually found my enjoyment and enthusiasm diminishing as it spun on. The first question I kept asking myself was "Where the hell is Shirley?" - I felt increasingly irritated with Miss Bronte that it takes 200 pages before she makes an appearance. But there was much that I liked: how good to have a novel properly anchored in its historical context and reflecting its concerns. Jane Austen can't do this - her characters seem to know nothing and care ...more
E. Chainey (Bookowski)
İngiliz Edebiyatı kadın yazarlarına hayranım. Nitekim C.Bronte benim en sevdiklerimden. Romantik bir roman beklemeyin demiş kendisi ama hele sonlara doğru içim sıcacık oldu. Ama kayalar kadar sert ve puruzlu bir kitap bu kitap. Bir yanda servet sahibi uzlaşılmaz Shirley Keeldar, diğer yanda narin ve guzel Caroline Helstone. Bir yanda fabrika sahibi karizmatik Robert Moore, diğer yanda onun hassas öğretmen kardeşi Louis Moore. Başkaldıran işçiler, eski anılar, İngiltere'nin Sanayileşme zamanları, ...more
Aug 26, 2016 Yamini rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Anastasia Hobbet
Feb 13, 2012 Anastasia Hobbet rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 31, 2011 Marie rated it really liked it
Coming from an obssessive Brontë devotee who has read all of their works, this was the one that I read last. I tried, several times, to read it, but my interest always wained. Having said that, I am thrilled to have finally finished it and was really impressed with Charlottte's attempt at writing in the third person omniscient...her only attept with regard to her novels, though the technique was prevelant in her juvenilia. "Shirley" is set during the Napoleonic war as England is struggling with ...more
Jaime Bridle
Jul 24, 2013 Jaime Bridle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 22, 2014 Steven rated it liked it
Shelves: british, women
Almost a feminist and socialist novel until the last chapter, Bronte's independent women (Shirley and Caroline) seem intent on making their own way in life until they both marry like good girls at the end.
Charlotte Bronte è un'autrice che amo, Jane Eyre fa parte del mio background culturale e non si contano le volte in cui l'ho letto. Con queste premesse è facile intuire che le mie aspettative su questo libro fossero piuttosto alte, ma non sono state deluse: certo non ha il pathos di jane Eyre, ma è un'opera di spessore.
E' un romanzo corale, non c'è un vero e proprio protagonista (basti pensare che la Shirley che da il titolo al volume appare dopo più di un terzo del racconto) e l'attenzione dell
Decisamente io e Charlotte Brontë non siamo fatte l'una per l'altra. No.
E dire che ero partita bene, le descrizioni dei tre curati mi facevano ridere... Poi che è successo? Non lo so, mi sono persa in un sacco di sottotrame e personaggi al limite dell'inutile lungaggini non sempre sensate e simili.

La protagonista, o almeno, la Shirley del titolo, compare a un terzo dell'opera. o____O

La sensazione generale è di avere davanti una brutta bozza per il romanzo sociale che sarà Nord e Sud di Elizabeth
Ana Barrona
May 10, 2015 Ana Barrona rated it did not like it
I despise this book. I truly do, in fact, the only way I actually reached the end was by shear stubbornness and the wave of relief I felt when I was finally done with it was the most emotionally invested I ever was in this book.

What really riles me up about this work it is its wasted potential, there are so many interesting points about this book that could have captivated me: the social riot during the introduction of machines, the difficulty of businesses during the Napoleon era and Shirley, s
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Charlotte Brontë was a British novelist, the eldest out of the three famous Brontë sisters whose novels have become standards of English literature. See also Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë.

Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, the third of six children, to Patrick Brontë (formerly "Patrick Brunty"), an Irish Anglican clergyman, and his wife, Maria Branwell. In April 1820 the fam
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“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.” 408 likes
“God surely did not create us, and cause us to live, with the sole end of wishing always to die. I believe, in my heart, we were intended to prize life and enjoy it, so long as we retain it. Existence never was originally meant to be that useless, blank, pale, slow-trailing thing it often becomes to many, and is becoming to me, among the rest.” 123 likes
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