Shirley ★★★✬☆

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Title: Shirley
Series: ———-
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 743
Words: 215K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Robert Moore is a mill owner noted for apparent ruthlessness towards his employees. He has laid off many of them, and is apparently indifferent to their consequent impoverishment. In fact he had no choice, since the mill is deeply in debt. He is determined to restore his family’s honour and fortune.

As the novel opens Robert awaits delivery of new labour-saving machinery for the mill, which will enable him to lay off additional employees. Together with some friends he watches all night, but the machinery is destroyed by “frame-breakers” on the way to the mill. Robert’s business difficulties continue, due in part to continuing labour unrest, but even more to the Napoleonic Wars and the accompanying Orders in Council, which forbid British merchants from trading in American markets.

Robert is very close to his cousin Caroline Helstone, who comes to his house to be taught French by his sister, Hortense. Caroline worships Robert. Caroline’s father is dead and her mother has abandoned her, leaving her to be brought up by her uncle, Rev. Helstone. To keep himself from falling in love with her Robert keeps his distance, since he cannot afford to marry for pleasure or for love.

Caroline realises that Robert is growing increasingly distant and withdraws into herself. Her uncle does not sympathise with her “fancies”. She has no money of her own, so she cannot leave, which is what she longs to do. She suggests that she might take up the role of governess, but her uncle dismisses the idea and assures her that she need not work for a living.

Caroline recovers somewhat when she meets Shirley, an independent heiress whose parents are dead and who lives with Mrs Pryor, her former governess. Shirley is lively, cheerful, full of ideas about how to use her money and how to help people, and very interested in business. Caroline and Shirley soon become close friends. Caroline becomes convinced that Shirley and Robert will marry. Shirley likes Robert, is very interested in his work, and is concerned about him and the threats he receives from laid-off millworkers. Both good and bad former employees are depicted. Some passages show the real suffering of those who were honest workers and can no longer find good employment; other passages show how some people use losing their jobs as an excuse to get drunk, fight with their previous employers, and incite other people to violence. Shirley uses her money to help the poorest, but she is also motivated by the desire to prevent any attack on Robert.

One night Rev. Helstone asks Shirley to stay with Caroline while he is away. Caroline and Shirley realise that an attack on the mill is imminent. They hear the dog barking and realise that a group of rioters has come to a halt outside the rectory. They overhear the rioters talking about entering the house, but are relieved when they decide to go on. The women go to the mill together to warn Robert, but they are too late. They witness the ensuing battle from their hiding place.

The whole neighbourhood becomes convinced that Robert and Shirley will marry. The anticipation of this event causes Caroline to fall ill. Mrs Pryor comes to look after her and learns the cause of Caroline’s sorrow. She continues her vigil even as Caroline worsens daily. Mrs Pryor then reveals to Caroline that she is Caroline’s mother. She had abandoned her because Caroline looked exactly like her father, the husband who tortured Mrs Pryor and made her life miserable. She had little money, so when her brother-in-law offered to bring up the child, she accepted the offer, took up the name of Pryor and went off to become a governess. Caroline now has a reason to live, since she knows that she can go and live with her mother, and begins to recover.

Shirley’s uncle and aunt come to visit her. They bring with them their daughters, their son, and their son’s tutor, Louis Moore. He is Robert’s younger brother and taught Shirley when she was younger. Caroline is puzzled by Shirley’s haughty and formal behaviour towards Louis. Two men fall in love with Shirley and woo her, but she rejects both of them because she does not love them. The relationship between Shirley and Louis, meanwhile, remains ambivalent. There are days when Louis can ask Shirley to come to the schoolroom and recite the French pieces she learned from him when she was younger. On other days Shirley ignores Louis. However, when Shirley is upset the only person she can confide in is Louis. After a supposedly mad dog bites Shirley and makes her think that she is to die early no one except Louis can make her reveal her fears.

Robert returns one dark night, first stopping at the market and then returning to his home with a friend. The friend asks him why he left when it seemed so certain that Shirley loved him and would have married him. Robert replies that he had assumed the same, and that he had proposed to Shirley before he left. Shirley had at first laughed, thinking that he was not serious, and then cried when she discovered that he was. She had told him that she knew that he did not love her, and that he asked for her hand, not for her sake, but for her money. Robert had walked away filled with a sense of humiliation, even as he knew that she was right. This self-disgust had driven Robert away to London, where he realised that restoring the family name was not as important as maintaining his self-respect. He had returned home determined to close the mill if he had to, and go away to Canada to make his fortune. Just as Robert finishes his narration his friend hears a gunshot and Robert falls from his horse.

The friend takes Robert to his own home and looks after him. After a turn for the worse Robert slowly gets better. A visit from Caroline revives him, but she has to come secretly, hiding from her uncle and his friend and his family. Robert soon moves back to his own home and persuades his sister that the very thing their house needs to cheer it up is a visit from Caroline. Robert asks for Caroline’s forgiveness.

Louis proposes to Shirley, despite the difference in their relative situations, and Shirley agrees to marry him. At first Caroline is to be Shirley’s bridesmaid, but Robert proposes to her and she accepts. The novel ends with Caroline marrying Robert and Shirley marrying Louis.

My Thoughts:

I kept going back and forth in my head if this was a 3star or a 3.5star read. There were times that I was really enjoying what I was reading and other times I simply wanted it to be gotten over with. This was very much a romance but with no gothic overtones.

Two women pine away almost to death for love of two brothers and the men manfully overcome their manliness and cultural ideals to marry them anyway. What a heart stopping story!

I can see why this isn’t one of the better known stories by the Bronte’s. At over 700 pages it is just LOOONG and really feels very rambly and voyeuristic into the lives of Shirley and Caroline. Given, that’s what is expected but it just hit me that way.

I can say with some authority that there is no chance I’ll be re-reading this book. I’ve read it and can cross it off the (imaginary) List.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Currently Reading & Quote: Shirley


; and that gift of poetry – the most divine bestowed on man –
~Shirley, Chapter XII

Gag me with a spoon, please! While I realize that historically speaking Poetry has had a pre-eminent place in literature, that does not in and of itself make it better than prose. Mankind does not, with the rare exceptions of intellectual snobs and idiots, speak in poetry but in prose. It is an artificial construct that completely relies on the extremely subjective tastes of the times. Other than that, I’m enjoy this novel. Well, except when Charlotte Bronte writes whole pages in french and doesn’t bother to translate it.

The above is a picture of the typical “beatnik”. It is what I imagine Alex and Fraggle to look like if they were beatniks in real life.. Heaven help them 😉

Jane Eyre ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Jane Eyre
Series: ———-
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 503
Words: 190.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Gateshead Hall

Jane Eyre, aged 10, lives at Gateshead Hall with her maternal uncle’s family, the Reeds, as a result of her uncle’s dying wish. Jane was orphaned several years earlier when her parents died of typhus. Mr. Reed, Jane’s uncle, was the only member of the Reed family who was ever kind to Jane. Jane’s aunt, Sarah Reed, dislikes her, abuses her, and treats her as a burden, and Mrs. Reed discourages her three children from associating with Jane. Jane, as a result, becomes defensive against her cruel judgement. The nursemaid, Bessie, proves to be Jane’s only ally in the household, even though Bessie occasionally scolds Jane harshly. Excluded from the family activities, Jane leads an unhappy childhood, with only a doll and books with which to entertain herself.

One day, as punishment for defending herself against her cousin John Reed, Jane is relegated to the red room in which her late uncle had died; there, she faints from panic after she thinks she has seen his ghost. The red room is significant because it lays the grounds for the “ambiguous relationship between parents and children” which plays out in all of Jane’s future relationships with male figures throughout the novel.[7] She is subsequently attended to by the kindly apothecary Mr. Lloyd to whom Jane reveals how unhappy she is living at Gateshead Hall. He recommends to Mrs. Reed that Jane should be sent to school, an idea Mrs. Reed happily supports. Mrs. Reed then enlists the aid of the harsh Mr. Brocklehurst, who is the director of Lowood Institution, a charity school for girls, to enroll Jane. Mrs. Reed cautions Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane has a “tendency for deceit”, which he interprets as Jane being a liar. Before Jane leaves, however, she confronts Mrs. Reed and declares that she’ll never call her “aunt” again. Jane also tells Mrs. Reed and her daughters, Georgiana and Eliza, that they are the ones who are deceitful, and that she will tell everyone at Lowood how cruelly the Reeds treated her. Mrs. Reed is hurt badly by these words, but does not have the courage or tenacity to show this.[8]

Lowood Institution

At Lowood Institution, a school for poor and orphaned girls, Jane soon finds that life is harsh. She attempts to fit in and befriends an older girl, Helen Burns. During a class session, her new friend is criticised for her poor stance and dirty nails, and receives a lashing as a result. Later, Jane tells Helen that she could not have borne such public humiliation, but Helen philosophically tells her that it would be her duty to do so. Jane then tells Helen how badly she has been treated by Mrs. Reed, but Helen tells her that she would be far happier if she did not bear grudges. In due course, Mr. Brocklehurst visits the school. While Jane is trying to make herself look inconspicuous, she accidentally drops her slate, thereby drawing attention to herself. She is then forced to stand on a stool, and is branded a sinner and a liar. Later, Miss Temple, the caring superintendent, facilitates Jane’s self-defence and publicly clears her of any wrongdoing. Helen and Miss Temple are Jane’s two main role models who positively guide her development, despite the harsh treatment she has received from many others.

The 80 pupils at Lowood are subjected to cold rooms, poor meals, and thin clothing. Many students fall ill when a typhus epidemic strikes; Helen dies of consumption in Jane’s arms. When Mr. Brocklehurst’s maltreatment of the students is discovered, several benefactors erect a new building and install a sympathetic management committee to moderate Mr. Brocklehurst’s harsh rule. Conditions at the school then improve dramatically.

Thornfield Hall

After six years as a student and two as a teacher at Lowood, Jane decides to leave in pursuit of a new life, growing bored of her life at Lowood. Her friend and confidante, Miss Temple, also leaves after getting married. Jane advertises her services as a governess in a newspaper. A housekeeper at Thornfield Hall, Alice Fairfax, replies to Jane’s advertisement. Jane takes the position, teaching Adèle Varens, a young French girl.

One night, while Jane is carrying a letter to the post from Thornfield, a horseman and dog pass her. The horse slips on ice and throws the rider. Despite the rider’s surliness, Jane helps him get back onto his horse. Later, back at Thornfield, she learns that this man is Edward Rochester, master of the house. Adèle was left in his care when her mother abandoned her. It is not immediately apparent whether Adèle is Rochester’s daughter or not.

At Jane’s first meeting with Mr. Rochester, he teases her, accusing her of bewitching his horse to make him fall. Jane stands up to his initially arrogant manner, despite his strange behaviour. Mr. Rochester and Jane soon come to enjoy each other’s company, and they spend many evenings together.

Odd things start to happen at the house, such as a strange laugh being heard, a mysterious fire in Mr. Rochester’s room (from which Jane saves Rochester by rousing him and throwing water on him and the fire), and an attack on a house-guest named Mr. Mason.

After Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire, he thanks her tenderly and emotionally, and that night Jane feels strange emotions of her own towards him. The next day however he leaves unexpectedly for a distant party gathering, and several days later returns with the whole party, including the beautiful and talented Blanche Ingram. Jane sees that Blanche and Mr. Rochester favour each other and starts to feel jealous, particularly because she also sees that Blanche is snobbish and heartless.

Jane then receives word that Mrs. Reed has suffered a stroke and is calling for her. Jane returns to Gateshead and remains there for a month to tend to her dying aunt. Mrs. Reed confesses to Jane that she wronged her, bringing forth a letter from Jane’s paternal uncle, Mr. John Eyre, in which he asks for her to live with him and be his heir. Mrs. Reed admits to telling Mr. Eyre that Jane had died of fever at Lowood. Soon afterward, Mrs. Reed dies, and Jane helps her cousins after the funeral before returning to Thornfield.

Back at Thornfield, Jane broods over Mr. Rochester’s rumoured impending marriage to Blanche Ingram. However, one midsummer evening, Rochester baits Jane by saying how much he will miss her after getting married and how she will soon forget him. The normally self-controlled Jane reveals her feelings for him. Rochester then is sure that Jane is sincerely in love with him, and he proposes marriage. Jane is at first skeptical of his sincerity, before accepting his proposal. She then writes to her Uncle John, telling him of her happy news.

As she prepares for her wedding, Jane’s forebodings arise when a strange woman sneaks into her room one night and rips Jane’s wedding veil in two. As with the previous mysterious events, Mr. Rochester attributes the incident to Grace Poole, one of his servants. During the wedding ceremony, however, Mr. Mason and a lawyer declare that Mr. Rochester cannot marry because he is already married to Mr. Mason’s sister, Bertha. Mr. Rochester admits this is true but explains that his father tricked him into the marriage for her money. Once they were united, he discovered that she was rapidly descending into congenital madness, and so he eventually locked her away in Thornfield, hiring Grace Poole as a nurse to look after her. When Grace gets drunk, Rochester’s wife escapes and causes the strange happenings at Thornfield.

It turns out that Jane’s uncle, Mr. John Eyre, is a friend of Mr. Mason’s and was visited by him soon after Mr. Eyre received Jane’s letter about her impending marriage. After the marriage ceremony is broken off, Mr. Rochester asks Jane to go with him to the south of France and live with him as husband and wife, even though they cannot be married. Jane is tempted but must stay true to her Christian values and beliefs. Refusing to go against her principles, and despite her love for Rochester, Jane leaves Thornfield at dawn before anyone else is up.[9]

Moor House

Jane travels as far from Thornfield as she can using the little money she had previously saved. She accidentally leaves her bundle of possessions on the coach and is forced to sleep on the moor. She unsuccessfully attempts to trade her handkerchief and gloves for food. Exhausted and starving, she eventually makes her way to the home of Diana and Mary Rivers but is turned away by the housekeeper. She collapses on the doorstep, preparing for her death. Clergyman St. John Rivers, Diana and Mary’s brother, rescues her. After Jane regains her health, St. John finds her a teaching position at a nearby village school. Jane becomes good friends with the sisters, but St. John remains aloof.

The sisters leave for governess jobs, and St. John becomes slightly closer to Jane. St. John learns Jane’s true identity and astounds her by telling her that her uncle, John Eyre, has died and left her his entire fortune of 20,000 pounds (equivalent to just over $2 million in 2021[10]). When Jane questions him further, St. John reveals that John Eyre is also his and his sisters’ uncle. They had once hoped for a share of the inheritance but were left virtually nothing. Jane, overjoyed by finding that she has living and friendly family members, insists on sharing the money equally with her cousins, and Diana and Mary come back to live at Moor House.

Proposals

Thinking that the pious and conscientious Jane will make a suitable missionary’s wife, St. John asks her to marry him and to go with him to India, not out of love, but out of duty. Jane initially accepts going to India but rejects the marriage proposal, suggesting they travel as brother and sister. As soon as Jane’s resolve against marriage to St. John begins to weaken, she mystically hears Mr. Rochester’s voice calling her name. Jane then returns to Thornfield to find only blackened ruins. She learns that Mr. Rochester’s wife set the house on fire and died after jumping from the roof. In his rescue attempts, Mr. Rochester lost a hand and his eyesight. Jane reunites with him, but he fears that she will be repulsed by his condition. “Am I hideous, Jane?”, he asks. “Very, sir; you always were, you know”, she replies. When Jane assures him of her love and tells him that she will never leave him, Mr. Rochester proposes again, and they are married. They live together in an old house in the woods called Ferndean Manor. Rochester regains sight in one eye two years after his and Jane’s marriage, and he sees their newborn son.

My Thoughts:

I did not enjoy this nearly as much as I did back in 2009. The majority of that is because the writing style just didn’t work for me this time around. It just felt overwrought and over emotional. Much like Dickens, Charlotte wrote floridly and rather umm, descriptively. Unlike Dickens, it simply didn’t work for me. At all.

As much as I loved Wuthering Heights last year, I suspect this read through of the Bronte sisters is going to be my first, and last, time spent with them. Wuthering caught me in the perfect spot and I doubt circumstances will so align again. At the same time, I can see why these are foundational to Classic literature.

This was a very odd read as I hated the style but still appreciated what Charlotte was doing. Jane Eyre is no saint or milksop. She’s a devil of a child, then an extremely proud young woman who almost starves to death because of her pride. What she isn’t is abrasive, rude or stupid.

While not getting the highest marks, I was overall satisfied with this final read. It is good to go out on a good note.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Villette

VilletteVillette

Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

A remarkable book that is marked by the following:
1) conversations that switch between french and english, in the same paragraph. Not cool.

2) a heroine who tells her story by her interactions with others instead of being interesting herself.

3) an annoying hate/love relationship with a cruel, capricious little french man.

4) an ending that doesn’t tell what actually happened. Bronte was a real witch in this regards

So if you can put up with all that, and have a melancholic turn of mind, you’ll probably love this.

I read it back in ’01, when I was in a melancholic turn of mind and I loved it then.
Now I’m happy and I didn’t particularly like this. Go figure.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
Classic
4 stars
502 pages

a girl grows up in a school. Becomes a governess. Falls in love with the Master and the Master with her. He is already married though, to a mad woman. Jane leaves, finds her relatives and ends up with Mr Rochester when his wife commits suicide.

I can see why this is a classic. Simple but not shallow. This showed the struggle of someone who did what was right, not necessarily exactly what they wanted. And it turned out all ok in the end.