Friday, February 4, 2011

Review - Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
published 12/09
234 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

The year is 1846. In a cold parsonage on the gloomy Yorkshire moors, a family seems cursed with disaster. A mother and two children dead. A father sick, without fortune, and hardened by the loss of his two most beloved family members. A son destroyed by alcohol and opiates. And three strong, intelligent young women, reduced to poverty and spinsterhood, with nothing to save them from their fate. Nothing, that is, except their remarkable literary talent.

So unfolds the story of the Bronte sisters. At its center are Charlotte and the writing of Jane Eyre. Delicately unraveling the connections between one of fiction's most indelible heroines and the remarkable woman who created her, Sheila Kohler's Becoming Jane Eyre will appeal to fans of historical fiction and, of course, the millions of readers who adore Jane Eyre.

My thoughts:

I've discovered that my best time to read each day is during my 25-minute long commute to work. Since I've started to make this a habit, I can feel myself getting back into the reading groove, and it feels really good.

Becoming Jane Eyre was a good choice to read for a little bit of time over several days, because it isn't an action-packed, page turning novel. It's very much an introspective read, examining the inner struggles and emotions of three intelligent, passionate young women. The style of the book is really nothing like Jane Eyre, but I could sense the author's deep love for the classic novel in her own work. In drawing parallels between Charlotte's own life and her Jane, Kohler gives readers an interesting, if somewhat speculative, glimpse into the inner workings of the author's mind and heart.

"Charlotte looks at her sisters, sitting side by side with the elderly woman who has looked after them for so many years. She realizes who must rescue Jane when she leaves Mr. Rochester: sisters, of course, two sisters like her own...They have given her courage in their different ways with their example and their love. They have rescued her from despair again and again. It is women, she thinks, looking at her brave and beautiful sisters and her old and faithful servant, who have enabled her to survive." (page 121)

The novel is somewhat slow and meandering - it is not going to grab you by the teeth and take you for a ride. But I found the ties the author created between the Bronte's life and their works to be quite interesting, and though the shifting narration was at times a bit unsettling, I found the sections written in Emily's voice especially compelling.

This was a good novel, but probably not great. It will appeal mostly to readers who are familiar with the work of the Bronte sisters, and are interested in a fictional account of the time in their lives when they were writing their great works. If you are looking for a novel to keep you reading late into the night, I would probably leave this one on the library shelves.

Finished: 2/3/11

Source: South side library

MPAA rating: PG for illusions to infidelity and the use of illicit substances

My rating: 7/10


bermudaonion said...

This sounds interesting but I have to read books like this when I'm not very distracted and that hardly seems to happen these days.

Constance Reader said...

I think this book sounds charming and like a nice breath of fresh air after all the thousands of books regarding that OTHER Jane...

Great review!

Zibilee said...

Though it does sound like this is a quiet and introspective read, it also sounds like one that I would really like. I often get excited about books that speculate on the inner lives and thoughts of famous authors, so I am adding this one to my list. Great and honest review!

Laurie C said...

I liked how the author didn't romanticize the Bronte sisters' lives.
I found your blog looking for other readers who also read Becoming Jane Eyre recently, and I wanted to let you know that I linked to your review.