Salutations!

And thanks for joining me on this literary journey!

I’m beyond excited to finally be starting this blog and to have a chance to write about all the aspects of literature that I adore, from particular chapters to large chunks of classic novels, to specific characters, to film and other artistic adaptations and interpretations. My vision is to document my feelings as they develop – I’m planning to write regular posts, as I am in the process of reading a single work. I have a huge To-Read list (which you can see on my Goodreads profile – Sidenote: Information on how to find me on Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads can be found at the bottom of this page!), including novels, theatre, poetry, short story collections and graphic novels, in the two languages I speak, English and French. I’m also looking forward to writing some more creative posts, such as letters to literary characters I’m especially fond of and my own creative adaptations of literary works.

To begin, and before I start reading or writing about anything new, I want to share with you some reviews that are part of what I’ll rather pretentiously call my “personal archive”. Honestly, I’ve written a lot about my favourite books, in my private journals (okay, so not really a pretentious archive after all!), and I want to share some of these (often random and unpolished) thoughts with you.

As you can probably tell from reading the other two pages on this site (About the Girl with a Green Heart and The Story of the Green Heart), I’m moderately obsessed with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, but I’m also pretty obsessed (and I’m quite passionate in this obsession!) with her second novel, Shirley. So, I will leave you with a review of that awesome book, written after I read it last summer.

Until next time!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart


Shirley

by Charlotte Brontë

I find myself wondering why people believe (or rather agree with Charlotte Brontë’s own assertion on the first page) that this novel is not a romance. I think that it is one of the most romantic stories that I have ever encountered, full of feeling and replete with characters who express themselves passionately and vividly. The narrative is exquisitely rendered, but this is to be expected when reading a novel by any writer as accomplished and acclaimed as Charlotte Brontë. I have now read all of Charlotte Brontë’s novels, and I have to admit that I prefer Shirley to Villette and The Professor which strike me as slightly less sentimental and expressive. Of course, Jane Eyre will always be my favourite, if only because it had such a profound effect on me during a time when I was coming of age, much like the heroine, and because it was the first Charlotte Brontë novel I read. However, there are aspects of and sketches in Shirley that rival my favourite parts of Jane Eyre and I would argue that the depictions of some of the characters in Shirley are stronger than those of many personages in Jane Eyre. I think this is due in large part to Brontë’s use of third person narration; although many readers seem to feel a disconnect from the narrative because of this stylistic choice, I feel that the third person point-of-view allows for more successful and poignant descriptions of the main characters. It would be difficult for the reader of Shirley to be confused about any of the main characters’ intentions: the sentiments of both female leads (Shirley Keeldar and Caroline Helstone) are explicitly described with much detail, but it is the description of the passions and interests of the two male protagonists (Robert and Louis Gérard Moore) that fascinated me most. Whereas in Jane Eyre, the reader is often called to question the accuracy of Jane’s (probably often biased) descriptions of Mr. Rochester’s actions, and moreover to scrutinize Rochester’s own narration of his past (after his unsuccessful second marriage), the reader cannot doubt the affections and preoccupations of Robert and Louis because they are so clearly articulated, as a result of the third person narrative style, and as a result of the inclusion of descriptions in Louis’ own hand in many places. There is too much about Shirley that touched and inspired me to document here, but I will say that I am now more than ever convinced that Charlotte Brontë was a master at creating strong, independent and assertive female characters. I have to disagree with readers that admonish Caroline for being weak and easily manipulated; her intense and forceful conversation with Mrs. Yorke (in the chapter entitled “An Evening Out”) contradicts this assessment. Furthermore, the titular character, Shirley, is nothing short of a feisty, strong-willed heroine; her statements to her uncle Sympson are proof of her self-respect and formidable confidence:

“‘Are you a young lady?’

‘I am a thousand times better: I am an honest woman, and as such I will be treated.'”

For all of these reasons, and many more, Shirley is absolutely one of my favourite Victorian novels and I think that Charlotte Brontë’s second literary attempt was an unequivocal success!

my beautiful Penguin edition of Shirley

my beautiful Penguin edition of Shirley

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10 thoughts on “Salutations!

  1. Pingback: #TBT, #JNGReads Edition | The World of my Green Heart

  2. Yes, your blog encouraged me to get through the book. Since the beginning was tedious, I wavered wondering whether it was worthwhile.

    I wish I had more reading time. Teaching is demanding and therefore I am compelled to combine my love for literature with the daily menial tasks that require no thinking. For example I listen to audio books while preparing my lunch and snacks for the next day. I have been doing this for three years. There is a free audio book website and have quite a collection of classic literature to recommend to others.

  3. Janille, I am reading and also listening (audio book) to Shirley. While the beginning was tedious, the novel is awe-inspiring. Charlotte has such an ability to feel and transmit those feelings. Some passages are so profound, they are worth going back to. I am simply spell bound. Have you had a chance to read Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray? It is an amazing story and one Charlotte Bronte loved and recommended.

    • I am so happy to hear that you decided to pick up Shirley and that you’re enjoying it! I’ve never listened to a novel as an audio book, but I imagine that Shirley is pretty conducive to that sort of experience because the language is so rich and the descriptions are so detailed and beautiful! I found the novel to be lovely and awe-inspiring, as you said, once you get into the heart of the narrative! I’ve read several passages and whole chapters many times and I plan to re-read the novel again soon!
      And no, I haven’t yet read Vanity Fair but it is absolutely at the top of my To-Read list because of Charlotte’s fondness for it. I’m sure that I’ll enjoy it, and I definitely plan to write a review of it once I’ve read it.
      Thank you for taking the time to let me know that you’re reading the novel…I’m glad my blog was encouraging for you! 🙂

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