Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shirley” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.75  ·  Rating details ·  29,911 ratings  ·  1,051 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 ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published June 29th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1849)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shirley, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Gabrielle Dubois The title is Shirley because, as Kittenval says in the first answer, it is Shirley who changes the characters with her arrival and with who she is.
The title is Shirley because, as Kittenval says in the first answer, it is Shirley who changes the characters with her arrival and with who she is.
Charlotte Bronte upsets the novel: it could have been a classic love story between Robert Moore, business leader, holder of power and money and decision-maker, and Caroline, a young girl without power, without knowledge, without wealth, a young girl of her time. But by giving her novel the title of Shirley, Bronte draws our attention to the fact that a love story can also be that of a woman entrepreneur (Shirley, her castle and farms), rich, decision-maker and a man who has neither power nor wealth and who is at the mercy of others, in a position of inferior.
It is a demonstration of equality between men and women, of Charlotte Bronte's intelligence, it is pure feminism!
This novel is a subtle and relentless feminist claim.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  29,911 ratings  ·  1,051 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Shirley
Henry Avila
Dec 15, 2016 rated it liked it
In the fast changing industrializing England of 1811-12 from farming to factories, ( the beauty of the green land, clear waters and blue skies are being destroyed rapidly by dark ugly pollution ) people will have to adapt or starve, machines are taking over sounds familiar ? A bleak future for some, others to prosper but a hiccup occurs ...Napoleon's long ruinous maybe endless war of 15 years is devastating Yorkshire's trade, embargoes by both France and her arch enemy Britain in the north of th ...more
...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.
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
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Shirley, Charlotte Brontë
Shirley, A Tale is an 1849 social novel by the English novelist Charlotte Brontë. It was Brontë's second published novel after Jane Eyre (originally published under Brontë's pseudonym Currer Bell). The novel is set in Yorkshire in the period 1811–12, during the industrial depression resulting from the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. The novel is set against a backdrop of the Luddite uprisings in the Yorkshire textile industry.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه می سا
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
Helene Jeppesen
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
Oct 11, 2015 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
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, to-reread
What an amazing surprise! Only time will tell, but this may be my new favorite classic, more beloved than Jane Eyre. I was so impressed with the cast of characters, the female friendships, the nature writing, the socio-political context, the depictions of depression and insomnia, and the ever presence of fantasy: fairies, goblins, specters, haunted locations and – heck yes – even mermaids. I am so looking forward to rereading this book and picking up all the little details I missed the first tim ...more
Mar 19, 2013 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
Ayu Palar
Mar 27, 2009 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
Jul 29, 2014 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
'I'll borrow of imagination what reality will not give me.'

Shirley was a somewhat momentous read for me, but for no other reason than that it was the last installment in the poignantly short Brontë ouvre I had left to go. And I’m disappointed to report that this wasn’t the grand finale I was hoping for: I respected this far more than could ever enjoy it.

The novel is, in essence, a rather dry social criticism set against the dramatic backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. The plot is an uninspired slog
Dannii Elle
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Charlotte. What am I to make of this book? The same author who penned the wonder that is Jane Eyre felt very different from the one who wrote out this societal-focused and small-town-political slog of a novel. Once this initial section was over the true focus of the novel was revealed (the one detailed in the synopsis) and this is when I began to enjoy the story. Everything beyond the first 100 pages was a joy to read, and full of the excellent character creation and formidable and fearsome ...more
What an amazing book. Charlotte Bronte you have opened my eyes again as you did with Jane Eyre, but even more so.
The main female characters here are strong feisty women, each in their own way. Caroline, orphaned, sweet and quiet natured lives with her uncle the vicar of the parish who is firm and stern and from his back history not too keen on women, and Shirley, young, beautiful, single, rich and completely her own woman. She is the most feisty Victorian woman I've ever read and omy I loved he
This novel was mentioned in The Making of the English Working Class so I read it out of interest for the sociopolitical background (view spoiler) but didn't enjoy Bronte's treatment of it - sympathetic as she is with the factory owner, though I believe interestingly he is foreign born. Think this is set late in the Napoleonic wars so possibly a rather early industrial novel?

Recently saw a
Derek Davis
Dec 02, 2010 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
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Germs of feminism although much too explanatory for our time
But this is why Virginia woolf admires bronte so much I guess
The friendship of the two girls and the relationship between the women was very real and observant
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
Melissa Lenhardt
Aug 20, 2012 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
Jan 30, 2013 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
Sotiris Karaiskos
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
One of the most stubborn myths surrounding the life of the Brontë sisters is that they spent their lives isolated and completely cut off from the outside world without having any particular contact with everything that happened in the UK of that time. Of course this myth is just that: a myth, and the best proof is this book . In this, Charlotte reveals that she had a perception of political and social reality, having even formed her own views on the issues that were at the time a matter of of pu ...more
Jan 22, 2016 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.
Katie Lumsden
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
Beautiful, wonderful and atmospheric as Charlotte Brontë always is.
Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans)
This is an imperfect book that is not as good as Jane Eyre, especially because the titular character doesn't appear until about 200 pages in and it is unevenly paced. That said, when introduced Shirley is a wonderful and complex character and the conclusion gave me all the feelings so yeah 5 stars.
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
[3.5 Stars]
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
After placing this on my did-not-finish shelf earlier in the year, I was motivated to give it another try after listening to the BBC Radio 4 dramatization. Having a basic idea of where the plot is going was very helpful and made it easier to stick with the book through all the divagations.

It's a long book. The beginning is a bit of a slog, and it wasn't until about a quarter of the way in that I got into enjoyable territory. It begins with a lot of description about the idiosyncrasies of minor c
Gabrielle Dubois
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An intelligent novel, full of suspense, attaching and complex characters and feminism. But as I have a lot of work this month, I don't have time for a review, so I just picked few things I commented with the Victorians! group.

What a plea for feminism in the discussion of Yorke children in Chapter 9! I just liked it so much! I could see Charlotte Bronte having fun while writing it!
'Rose, don't be too forward to talk,' here interrupted Mrs. Yorke, in her usual kill-joy fashion, 'nor Jessy either.
My Thoughts:
It took a while to become invested in the story. For me, the first few chapters crept along until chapter six.
The second paragraph of the first chapter tells me not to expect a romance. I was told to “calm my expectations.” However, I don’t feel this statement is entirely correct. It is a subdued romance, but there is romance in the story.
I immediately felt compassion for Caroline Helstone. She lives with her uncle who gives the strong impression he is indifferent to her plight as a
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I appreciate the effort Charlotte Bronte put into this novel. I am glad she put the effort into the writing and publishing of it so others/more others could be exposed to the concerns discussed and described in the novel. Although the concerns have changed some, some remain in altered form.

Bronte seemed less sympathetic to, such as workers' rights. The workers of the mid-19th century were worried and hungry because their manufacuturing of consumer goods was being largely replaced by the machines
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Victorians!: Shirley: Week 4: May 26- 31: Ch. 28-37 (end) 9 20 May 08, 2020 11:17AM  
Victorians!: Shirley: Week 3: May 19-25: Ch. 18-27 9 29 May 04, 2020 10:44AM  
Victorians!: Shirley: Week 1: May 5-11: Ch. 1-9 32 39 May 28, 2019 04:21AM  
Victorians!: Shirley: Week 2: May 12- 18: Ch. 10-17 20 19 May 27, 2019 11:58AM  
Victorians!: Schedule and Background Info 20 52 May 11, 2019 06:41AM  
Catching up on Cl...: Shirley - SPOILERS 26 66 Jan 04, 2019 01:06PM  
Catching up on Cl...: Shirley - NO spoilers 9 66 Jan 01, 2019 11:59AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Agnes Grey
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  • The Life of Charlotte Brontë
  • North and South
  • Mansfield Park
  • Mary Barton
  • Little Dorrit
  • The Woodlanders
  • Wives and Daughters
  • Evelina
  • Cranford
  • Felix Holt: The Radical
  • Lady Audley's Secret
  • Ruth
  • Daniel Deronda
  • He Knew He Was Right
  • No Name
  • Lady Susan
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

You may know actress Jenny Slate from her role as Mona-Lisa Saperstein on Parks and Recreation. Or maybe your introduction to her was through one o...
38 likes · 14 comments
“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.” 523 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.” 155 likes
More quotes…