Editied, with additions in blue.
I'm three chapters into Shirley and wondering when the titular character will make her first appearance. As with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, my first Brontë Project read, I took care not to read anything that could give me an indication of what the novel is about so that I would come to it with a (metaphorical) clean slate. You see, I am one of those people who absolutely hate reviews and forewords to books that blithely give away important plot points, as if the writer assumes that everyone must already either have read the book or at the least know everything about it so that it's okay to drop spoilers on the reader. As a result, I now read forewords only after I have read the book. But back to Shirley.
That the title character is female I only found out accidentally. I had read somewhere that before Shirley Temple rose to Hollywood fame, Shirley was a man's name, so I assumed - since this book was published in 1849 - that Brontë's Shirley must be male, but then I found out that it was apparently this book which popularised Shirley as a female name and that Shirley Temple was only the cause of a surge of popularity of the name and not the cause of the gender change. Somebody clearly got their facts muddled, and by that I mean either the person who asserts it was Shirley Temple who turned the tide or the person who claims it was Brontë's Shirley. I'd like to see proof of either.
What I have read so far is written in a style that seems ever so slightly mocking at times. One can almost imagine the narrator telling the story with the slight drawl often used to indicate dry humour in audio book readings. The word I was looking for here is arch.
I have no idea if this is going to turn out to be romance, or drama, or melodrama, or something else altogether, but I'm looking forward to finding out.