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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shirley (Charlotte Brontë)

The struggling manufacturer, Robert Moore, has introduced labour-saving machinery to his Yorkshire mill, arousing a commotion of unemployment and discontent among his workers. Robert considers marriage to the wealthy and independent Shirley Keeldar to solve his financial woes, yet his heart lies with his cousin Caroline, who, bored and desperate, lives as a dependent in her uncle's home with no prospect of a career.
Shirley, meanwhile, is in love with Robert's brother, an impoverished tutor, who is a match opposed by her family. As industrial unrest builds to a potentially fatal pitch, can those four be reconciled?
Set during the Napoleonic wars at a time of national economic struggles, Shirley is an unsentimental yet passionate depiction of conflict between classes, sexes and generations.

Quote: "Mr Yorke wished to know whether this interference, vigilance and coercion would feed those who were hungry, give work to those who wanted work and whom no man would hire. He scouted the idea of inevitable evils; he said public patience was a camel, on whose back the last atom that could be borne had already been laid, and that resistance was now a duty: the wide-spread spirit of disaffection against constituted authorities, he regarded as the most promising sign of the times; the masters, he allowed, were truly aggrieved, but their main grievances had been heaped on them by a 'corrupt, base, and bloody' government (these were Mr Yorke's epithets). Madmen like Pitt, demons like Castlereagh, mischievous idiots like Perceval, were the tyrants, the curses of the country, the destroyers of her trade. It was their infatuated perseverance in an unjustifiable, a hopeless, a ruinous war, which had brought the nation to its present pass. It was their monstrously oppressive taxation, it was the infamous 'Orders in Council' - the originators of which deserved impeachment and the scaffold, if ever public men did - that hung a millstone about England's neck."

What I liked about this book: First of all, it is amazing how its main subject remains so true to our times! Shirley could have been written nowadays, if not for several occurrences connecting it to what Charlotte Brontë was going through, in particularly the deaths and illnesses that took her family away, starting with Charlotte's mum.
I was also glad this was not a romantic novel, I felt it was a breath of fresh air to be reading about different matters, although marriage and passionate feelings were unavoidable.
I loved the way she talks to the reader, as if she were telling us the story herself instead of writing it... I was captivated by this closeness.
Last, but not least, I cannot help feeling thrown back with the descriptions of the places, having been in Haworth myself, I am still in awe of the place and the Brontë books always manage to bring me back to the most wonderful location I have ever been at!

What I disliked about this book: There were too many characters to remember, which had me lost at some points, and the story, itself, was too long!

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