Set in the industrialising England of the Napoleonic wars – a period of bad harvests, Luddite riots and economic unrest – Shirley is the story of two contrasting heroines and the men they love. One is the shy Caroline Helstone, trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory, whose life represents the plight of single women in the 19th century. The other is the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention.
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