This is a very uneven book, and doesn’t have the power to take you on a journey from cover to cover like 'Jane Eyre' and 'Villette'. The beginning of the story, which is involved with local and religious politics, is quite hard going, and I found the male characters quite difficult to imagine, even though they’re all described at great length. The character of Caroline Helstone is engaging and sympathetic, but she seems to fall out of focus towards the end. Shirley herself is certainly lively, but not very likable. There are some beautiful descriptive scenes now and again, particularly in the snowy chapter called ‘The Schoolboy and the Wood Nymph’. Altogether I didn’t find this novel very satisfying as a story, but Bronte's narrative voice is like a witty friend throughout.