An intelligent novel, full of suspense, attaching and complex characters and feminism. But as I have a lot of work this month, I don't have time for a review, so I just picked few things I commented with the Victorians! group on Goodreads.

What a plea for feminism in the discussion of Yorke children in Chapter 9! I just liked it so much! I could see Charlotte Bronte having fun while writing it!
'Rose, don't be too forward to talk,' here interrupted Mrs. Yorke, in her usual kill-joy fashion, 'nor Jessy either. It becomes all children, especially girls, to be silent in the presence of their elders.'
'Why have we tongues, then?' asked Jessy pertly; while Rose only looked at her mother with an expression that seemed to say she should take that maxim in and think it over at her leisure. After two minutes' grave deliberation, she asked, 'And why especially girls, mother?'
'Firstly, because I say so; and secondly, because discretion and reserve are a girl's best wisdom.'
'There are plenty of people,' continued Jessy, 'who take notice of the boys. All my uncles and aunts seem to think their nephews better than their nieces, and when gentlemen come here to dine, it is always my brothers that are talked to, and never Rose and me...

Robert Moore, the male main character tries to fight to recover from his family's bankruptcy and keep his business to continue to provide work, a source of money and life for the workers' families.
Yes, Robert Moore was tough when he answered Farren. But then he explained it to Yorke.
Robert says he made a mistake, but I think “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
'I do. The fellow spoke to me nothing but truth and sense. I answered him just as roughly as I did the rest, who jabbered mere gibberish. I couldn't make distinctions there and then. His appearance told what he had gone through lately clearer than his words; but where is the use of explaining? Let him have work.'
Robert is strangled. He fights not to lose his job, that is to say his factory. He understands workers like Farren, for whom the work he gives them is vital, but for the moment, there is nothing he can do about it. It is undoubtedly because of his powerlessness in the face of the global crisis and workers' family crises, that Robert Moore was hard on Farren. Moore is a strong man who reacts with strength. It was not Farren he got angry with, but a situation that is out of his control right now. And in the dialogue with Yorke he explains: 'If there was a point left in my affairs to strain, I would strain it till it cracked again; but I received letters this morning which show me pretty clearly where I stand, and it is not far off the end of the plank. My foreign market, at any rate, is gorged. If there is no change - if there dawns no prospect of peace - if the Orders in Council are not, at least, suspended, so as to open our way in the West - I do not know where I an' to turn. I see no more light than if I were sealed in a rock, so that for me to pretend to offer a man a livelihood would be to do a dishonest thing.'
Robert Moore is an honest man:
'Yes, a second failure - which I may delay, but which, at this moment, I see no way finally to avert - would blight the name of Moore completely; and you are aware I had fine intentions of paying off every debt and re-establishing the old firm on its former basis.'
I understand the distress of manual workers who lose their jobs because of the progress of machines. But so is progress, sooner or later, they will have to adapt, and breaking machines that do not belong to them is not the solution.
In my other work, not as a writer, but as the one who supports me and my children, I have been confronted with this situation. Well, I had to adapt, and I didn't destroy machines neither men for that. C'est la vie!
Farren's life is not easy. But Robert Moore's life is not easy either. If he goes bankrupt, he will find himself without resources, like Farren, and in addition, not only himself, but also his workers will be unemployed and this will weigh on his heart.

Now let Shirley describe herself:

"Business! Really the word makes me conscious I am indeed no longer a girl, but quite a woman and something more. I am an esquire! Shirley Keeldar, Esquire, ought to be my style and title. They gave me a man's name; I hold a man's position: it is enough to inspire me with a touch of manhood, and when I see such people as that stately Anglo-Belgian - that Gérard Moore before me, gravely talking to me of business, really I feel quite gentleman-like."
Who is she? No doubt she is a feminist and certainly the woman Charlotte Bronte would have liked to be: independant, free for two reasons: first, money makes her free, second, she is a free mind... and this isn't given by money and not to everyone, imo.
Who is Shirley?
At the end of Chapter 15: Mr. Donne's Exodus, men could answer you: she's a man, even more, a gentleman!
I answer you: Shirley is a woman, even more, a brave, honest woman!
And what about Donne? Donne was astounded. Blind men are necessarily surprised in front of lucid women! :D
It seems that Caroline Helstone has been loved by only one person: Robert. Or she thought so...
Her mother is non-existent, it is not clear why, but she is not very well judged by those who knew her. His father was a horrible character. Her uncle takes care of her properly, but out of duty rather than love. Hortense, as I recall, only gives her French lessons because it makes her personally happy.
So Caroline has invested a lot in her love for Robert. The more you believe in one thing, the more disappointed you get when it's not what you thought it was.
Feminism is in chapter XIV and everywhere in Shirley!

"Men rarely like such of their fellows as read their inward nature too clearly and truly. It is good for women, especially, to be endowed with a soft blindness: to have mild, dim eyes, that never penetrate below the surface of things - that take all for what it seems: thousands, knowing this, keep their eyelids drooped, on system; but the most downcast glance has its loophole, through which it can, on occasion, take its sentinel-survey of life."

Dieu que j'aime cela! I can write in French, after reading Shirley, you can all read French fluently, can't you? ;)

And feminism again:
In 1838, George Sand French female author, wrote Indiana :
"I wrote Indiana, I had to write Indiana (…) Is the cause I was defending so small? It is that of half of the human race, it is that of the entire human race; for the woe of women leads to that of men, as that of the slaves leads to that of the masters, and I tried to show it in Indiana. It has been said that it was an individual cause that I pleaded; as if I had been the only unfortunate human being in this peaceful and radiant humanity! Enough cries of pain and sympathy responded to mine so that I now know about the supreme bliss of others.
(...) I wrote Indiana with the unreasoned feeling, it is true, but deep and legitimate, of the injustice and barbarity of the laws that still govern the existence of the woman in marriage, in the family and the society. I did not have to make a treatise on jurisprudence, but to wage war against public opinion; because it is she who delays or prepares social improvements. The war will be long and hard; but I am neither the first, nor the only, nor the last champion of such a beautiful cause, and I will defend it as long as I have a breath of life left."

In Shirley's chapter 21, Charlotte Brontë induces such thoughts in the dialogue between Mrs. Pryor and Caroline.
The difference is that, in her observation, Charlotte Brontë sad and desperate to me, while George Sand, who had struggled to make herself a free life, wasn't. Anyway, they observation is the same one: here's C. Brontë dialogue:
'In this case there ought to be no such thing as marriage.'
'There ought, my dear, were it only to prove that this life is a mere state of probation, wherein neither rest nor recompense is to be vouchsafed.' (...)
'God mingles something of the balm of mercy even in vials of the most corrosive woe. He can so turn events, that from the very same blind, rash act whence sprang the curse of half our life, may flow the blessing of the remainder. Then, I am of a peculiar disposition, I own that: far from facile, without address, in some points eccentric. I ought never to have married: mine is not the nature easily to find a duplicate, or likely to assimilate with a contrast. I was quite aware of my own ineligibility; and if I had not been so miserable as a governess, I never should have married; ...'

Chapter 22, excerpt:

"People hate to be reminded of ills they are unable or unwilling to remedy: such reminder, in forcing on them a sense of their own incapacity, or a more painful sense of an obligation to make some unpleasant effort, troubles their ease and shakes their self-complacency..."
This is exactly what I found out from my own experience a few years ago. I finally said I had been assaulted, and the adults who should have seen this in my childhood have still not been able to hear it in my adulthood. Ainsi va la vie! We learn that some questions will remain unanswered, but the healing comes from being able to ask the question.

Chapter 22 again, excerpt:
"Old maids, like the houseless and unemployed poor, should not ask for a place and an occupation in the world: the demand disturbs the happy and rich..."

Again, this reminded me of what George Sand wrote in Indiana:
"Society, organized as it was then, was favourable and advantageous to man; it could not be disturbed without reducing the sum of his well-being, and this perfect calm of situation which is communicated to the thought, is a wonderful teaching to moderation. Which man is ungrateful enough towards Providence to blame it for the misfortune of others, if for him it had only smiles and benefits? How could these young men be persuaded that their society was already old, that it was weighing on the social body and tiring it, when they found it light for themselves and that they only reaped the benefits? Who believes in the misery he doesn't know?"
Translation is by myself, don't blame George Sand the great!

And what a feminist and independant mind's plea Shirley sends to her uncle! Go ahead, Shirley!

Beautiful quote by C. Brontë said by Robert Moore, in chapter 35:
"We will remember that with what measure we mete it shall he measured unto us, and so we will give no scorn - only affection."
And the last sentence of the novel:
"The story is told. I think I now see the judicious reader putting on his spectacles to look for the moral. It would be an insult to his sagacity to offer directions. I only say, God speed him in the quest!
Please, Honorable Professor C. Brontë, can I just enjoy this novel, or do I really have to think about it? Well, I'll think about it, which will be a very humble thanks to you who wrote these beautiful and strong pages.

My dear Théophile Gautier wrote:

"It doesn't matter if it's a sword, a sprinkler or an umbrella that governs you! It is always a stick, and I am surprised that men of progress are arguing about which club to tickle their shoulders, while it would be much more progressive and less expensive to break it and throw it to the devil. (translation by myself, sorry!)
(The sword being the symbol of the armed force, the sprinkle being the symbol of the clergy and the umbrella being the symbol of secular authority.)
In Shirley, all the characters are subject to one or more authorities: the distant and foreign Napoleon, the English Lord Wellington, the churchmen, the uncle ..., whose decisions have a direct impact on their lives.

Question: Do we really still need all these so-called leaders? Humans are not yet wise enough, you will answer me, so they still need leaders. But are the leaders wise?

What, miss Brontë? It's not enough? Ok, let's see...
On the one hand, Robert Moore, although he has heart, manages his factory with an iron fist. He defends his good rifle against rifle. This results in death and injury and revenge. The result is also that in the end, it is Robert Moore who feels bad and is alone.
On the other hand, Shirley, like Moore, runs her estate and her servants. With a heart too, but without violence: she does not reprimand her cook who robs her blatantly. The cook was eventually won over by this good heart: she no longer stole from her mistress and even defended her. Shirley is not isolated like Moore, she makes friends: Mrs Pryor, Caroline, Mr Hall, Henry, etc.... With different means, she manages to manage her field.
Robert Moore acts initially as society has educated him: as a man. But, fortunately, he is one of the heroes of the novel, and he will learn to change alone for his own good and that of others.
Shirley acts like a woman: kindness, understanding, etc.... although her character is as impetuous as Robert Moore's, it is attenuated by her education. She is lucky, because, let's take the example of the cook: Mrs Gil, that's her name, I think? Mrs Gil could have been a heartless person and continue to steal from Shirley, in which case Shirley would have had to act.
Two leaders, two different ways of leading. See TED Talk How movies teach manhood

Still not enough? About feminism, Miss Brontë?

Well, there has been progress, but there is still a lot to do! Thank you for this beautiful novel, Charlotte Bronte!
Link towards GOODREADS