Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 9781539033202, 506pp.
Publication Date: September 22, 2016
List Price: 21.99*
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The novel is set in Napoleon era, in a village where machinery just enters the society. As we often witness in history books, the invention of machines often caused new social order, or to be exact, social riot. This social setting enriches the theme of Shirley. in fact, it generates the plot.
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 Bronte's novel though, there's not one, but two romances going on, presented in the most extravagant way and what makes the novel even more compelling is that its characters have flaws and make mistakes and learn their way along the way with the reader.
Shirley is not the 'bildungsroman' of a Jane Eyre; nor is it the description of the unrequited feelings of a Lucy Snowe in Charlotte's novel, Villette. Shirley is a 'romance' (and more than one) within a detailed and descriptive portrayal of Yorkshire society and culture in 1811 and 1812 near the end of the Napoleonic wars and during the period of the Luddite riots in portions of the newly industrialized United Kingdom. This novel is gritty, earthy, hardy and hearty, and fully representative of the Yorkshire men and women of the moor country of northern England.
While Shirley is full of the romance and passion of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte serves up her heroines and heroes in a much more realistic and prosaic fashion.
The story is told through the use of different literary devices and voices too. Sometimes Charlotte Bronte uses the omniscient third-person narrator; sometimes the first-person introspective or reflective voice is used; and she even uses the journal entries and written word of her characters to tell the story.
The novel is really about change -- changes in the individuals, changes in relationships, changes in how men and women perceive themselves, and changes in the way of life in a community.
In conclusion though, this novel -- Shirley -- is about love. It is about the power of love, a steadfast love, and an unrepenting love. This is a powerful proto-feminist statement too; unrelenting in its patronage of the value of women in society and in the basic human relationship between a woman and a man. These are women you can admire and respect -- and love.
With Shirley, Charlotte Bronte proves that she is a master of storytelling.
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