Shirley by Charlotte Bronte ***
I adore Charlotte Bronte’s work, and was so looking forward to reading Shirley. It seems to be one of her least popular novels. I began to read it on rather a foggy day in France, thinking that the Gothic elements which I was sure it would include would match the setting perfectly. Sadly, I did not find it immediately captivating as I have done her other novels and unfinished works, and in no way did it match up to my beloved Jane Eyre or the wonderful Villette.
In Shirley, Bronte has created many character studies, each of them vastly different, and all of them believable. I really liked the way in which portions of the book were directly spoken to the ‘reader’ of the piece. The political background which the novel is set against was immensely interesting, particularly from an historical point of view. Its style is slow and lilting and, as ever, the descriptions are gorgeously vivid and her writing beautiful. As always with Bronte’s novels, I was struck by her stunning depictions of nature. The novel is worth reading for these alone. Despite my lack of love for Shirley, I still class Charlotte Bronte as one of my favourite authors, and will undoubtedly go back to this novel in future.
Mary: A Fiction by Mary Wollstonecraft ***
I had never read any of Wollstonecraft’s work before, and was not really sure what to expect from it. The first sentence of Mary: A Fiction states that ‘In delineating the heroine of this fiction, the author attempts to develop a character different from those usually portrayed’. Mary: A Fiction is a novella, and a beautifully written one. The turns of phrase which Wollstonecraft uses are lovely, as are her descriptions. As a character study, it holds so much interest, and I really was fond of bookish Mary at the start of the story; she was rather headstrong and lovely. As soon as the man of the piece, Henry, was introduced, however, she did become a little insipid, which was a real shame, and her character did not always feel consistent in consequence. The ending was also rather abrupt, hence my three star review. I will certainly read more of Wollstonecraft’s work, and hope that she has written many other books and short stories.
The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit ****
I vaguely remember reading The Story of the Treasure Seekers as a child, along with some of Nesbit’s other lovely books. It tells the story of the six rather adorable Bastable children: ‘Our Mother is dead, and if you think we don’t care because I don’t tell you much about her you only show that you do not understand people at all.’ Oswald, one of the eldest Bastables, is the narrator of the piece. As the children are rather poor and wish to help out their busy working father, they decide to go and seek treasure from their local London area, because ‘it is always what you do to restore the fallen fortunes of your House’. The Story of the Treasure Seekers is witty and amusing, as Nesbit’s books invariably are. The children which she has created here are all just charming, with their mounds of naivety and their good hearts. It is a very sweet book, and is even lovelier than I remembered it.