Sheila KOHLER : Becoming Jane Eyre

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. 

I liked it better than I thought I would. I love Jane Eyre so much that anything that looks like a fictionalised biography or a retelling, I look upon with caution.
However, this one caught me right from the start : it begins with Patrick Brontë's cataract operation in Manchester, where he was accompanied by Charlotte. Imagine what it must have been at the time (and that is why, apart from women's rights, I'm so happy to live in the 21st century, even if it's not the best of times) : the operation to remove cataract was performed without anesthesia. The patient was on the table, held in place by two people, and he saw (well, mostly saw, and also knew) the scalpel approaching his eyes to remove the thin membrane that covered them - don't blink ! *shivers* After that, he had to stay in a bed, no light, no sound, no shock for days. Imagine lying on a bed with nothing, absolutely nothing to do but think ? That's what happened in the Yellow wall-paper and it didn't turn out well.

It was a touching fiction, based on facts for a part, on imagination on the other, and it's easily and quickly read (260 pages in my edition). The story is not told entirely from Charlotte's point of view, we also hear the other sisters, Emily and Anne, Patrick the father, even the nurse, but it's mostly about Charlotte. What is interesting is the writing process, how things that she lived, experiences, heard about, were involved in the creation of Jane Eyre. I could picture the setting, the characters vividly, hear their different voices, even accents.

A very good surprise, that makes me want to read more by this author.


  1. I recall reading a history of the family, including what happened to poor Branwell - and it was a heartbreak... Far too much brilliance cut short by disease, as they were all geniuses. This sounds thoroughly intriguing. Thank you for sharing, Iza:)

    1. Yes, it was a tragical family, and the father survived all his children :/ You're welcome, SJ ;)