A beautifully imagined tale of the Brontë sisters and the writing of Jane Eyre. Sheila Kohler's memoir Once We Were Sisters is now available.
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 Brontë 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, as well as biographies about the Brontës like Claire Harman’s Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart.
South African Kohler's well-written seventh novel takes the lives of the Bront s: Charlotte, Emily, Anne, Branwell and their father, and substitutes imagination for facts. The book opens in 1846 with Charlotte's father recovering from eye surgery in Manchester, England. The narrative follows the internal ragings and musings of Rev. Bront , the Bront sisters, the nurse briefly hired to help Charlotte and her father, their own nurse of many years and even the mother of George Smith, the eventual publisher of Jane Eyre. Charlotte's desire for a heroine with more courage than she herself has spills onto the page during the long, lonely hours of her father's convalescence, as she remembers her doomed love for her teacher in Brussels and other hurts and affronts throughout her life. Kohler (Crossways) gives us a more multidimensional, passionate and temperamental Charlotte than most biographies. Too much narration and switching of points of view slows the pace, but connecting the writer with her heroine is intriguing. This novel will likely send fans back to the originals and should inspire those who know "of" the novels to finally read them.