'Shirley' did not grab my attention from the outset as it is densely written; each sentence must be carefully read, not skimmed over. As you can read from the synopsis on the cover, the novel is set in a fragile social and economic situation, but the novel concerns so much more than Luddite riots. Charlotte Bronte takes us into the hearts and minds of the characters as they are challenged by their surroundings, their church and each other. In the starkest terms it concerns loneliness and companionship, love and enmity. It is testament to her writing that months after reading it, I still feel as if I know the central characters almost better than they know themselves. To me, the world we are drawn into in 'Shirley' seems more real than that of 'Jane Eyre'. It is a wonderful book and I do not know why it is so neglected in comparison. It may take a while to get to grips with, but the result is worth the wait.