The Romance of the Shop is a novel penned in 1888 by Amy Levy. It is one of the first novels that illuminates the struggles of the New Women, one of the first Feminist movements that gained traction in the United States. The novel's protagonists are the Lorimar sisters, young women who start their own photography business after the death of their father leaves them penniless and in a perilous position as far as their future is concerned. By 1888, photography had really captured the public imagination as an accessible medium with many different uses - family portraits, capturing important moments in history, and of course as an art form. The Lorimar sisters are hired to take a variety of photographs, but the majority of their work is used for demonstration slides by university lecturers, and also post mortem photographs for the coroner.
The New Women were not exactly welcomed with open arms by society. In fact, the movement's name came about when a writer by the name of Charles Reade wrote a book called "A Women Hater" which presented a case for the equal treatment of women and kick-started the women's movement. The New Women pushed the envelope when it came to challenging traditional male and female roles in society, sometimes because they wanted to, and sometimes because, like the Lorimars, they had no choice; it was challenge the status quo, or descend into poverty.
The novel is written with a narrator and is clearly a product of its time, with contemporary colloquial language, and a style that mimicked popular fiction. Levy also references songs and entertainers of the day. It was very popular, and was well-received by the reading public. Even critics liked it. It introduced Levy to them as an author they had been previously unaware of. She was considered to have considerable promise as a writer, and her next book was eagerly awaited due primarily to the success of The Romance of the Shop.