Well, it only took me 5,000 years to finish ‘Shirley’ by Charlotte Brontë. Granted, the novel is pretty long and I got sidetracked by shiny things, such as Harry Potter over Christmas, but let’s not dwell on that. At long last, I made it through.
And I liked it. Granted, it’s a bit difficult when the person, the novel is named after, doesn’t appear until you’re about 30% into the story but well, you win some, you lose some.
This is far less the story of Shirley as it is the story of a whole bunch of people living in the same town, whose lives are all entwined. Which is what I really liked. Instead of focussing on just one person, you get a whole bunch of characters and, in a way, the end brings it all together. Though, nothing about the ending was particularly shocking. In fact, I struggled a bit with the last couple of chapters because my 21st century notion of love seems to differ a bit from what Charlotte Brontë thought it is.
What struck me about the writing was that the book seemed a bit distorted at times. Like it would have needed another edit or polish.
My personal highlight were the feminist hints every now and then because both Shirley and Caroline have to battle against the assumptions people make about them. Shirley is in this exceptional position where she doesn’t have to marry for money and can stand on her own two feet, estate wise. That’s rather unusual and so is she which I appreciated greatly. Every so often, Brontë hints about how men think the minds of women are worth less and similar things and I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like living in that age, knowing you got the brains for so much more than just sewing and bearing children.
My biggest gripe was the reveal of Caroline’s long absent mother. That just seemed too contrived in my opinion.
All in all, I enjoyed Shirley even if it was long and sometimes a bit meandering. I’m glad I got to read it.