Shirley is the title of a classic, written by Charlotte Brontë right after the death of her brother, Branwell, and two sisters, Emily and Anne. On the back cover of the Penguin Classics edition that I own, it is said that she "poured out her feelings for her dead sisters". One would naturally expect a novel comparable, if not more passionate and intense than Jane Eyre, her first-published and greatest novel ever. On the inside of the cover of my copy of this novel, I had written, in my own handwriting, the date and place where I bought it. The year was 1994. In the last 12 years I had attempted to read this classic no less than 3 times. And each time, I couldn't get past the first chapter itself, before giving up. The storyline was presently so slowly, so subtly, and the descriptions of characters, places and events so extensive and elaborate, that it is an effort keeping my concentration on it, for more than a couple of paragraphs at a time.
Recently, I undertook the challenge to read (and complete reading!) this book again. The title character, Miss Shirley Keeldar, did not make appearance in the text for the first 10 chapters - that is, about the first 200 pages of the book. And I thought it was bad that David Copperfield was not yet born within the first 20 pages of David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. *wide-eyed*
I am right now in the midst of Chapter XII of Shirley, and I do hope I will complete the novel this time - finally.
(Image above taken from Richmond, Yorkshire by JMW Turner)