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Becoming Jane Eyre: A Novel (Penguin Original) Paperback – December 29, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Original
  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143115979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143115977
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,396,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

South African Kohler's well-written seventh novel takes the lives of the Brontës: 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. Brontë, the Brontë 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. (Jan.)
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Review

“Kohler offers an imaginative recreation of the woman who created this once-scandalous, now beloved classic. Sensitive, intelligent, and engaging… A beautiful complement to Brontë’s masterpiece.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)



“Well-written. Kohler gives us a more multidimensional, passionate and temperamental Charlotte than most biographies… 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.”—Publishers Weekly



“Sheila Kohler moves with assured ease between fiction and biography, between the inner life of Charlotte Brontë as she composes Jane Eyre and the comedy of professional rivalry among the three Brontë sisters.”—J.M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace and Summertime



“Bravo! I couldn’t put it down and finished it in the depths of the night.” —Lyndall Gordon, author of Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life



Becoming Jane Eyre is lush and filled with dark sensuality and the tension of unsaid things. The style is quite different from Charlotte Brontë’s in Jane Eyre, yet the tone and imagery and spirit remain in the same realm. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and Sheila Kohler one of my favorite writers.”—Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club


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Customer Reviews

Very sad too.
M. HOERMANN
Of course, this is a work of fiction, but I felt that the author took very few liberties and stuck to the facts as they are known and generally accepted.
Janeite
Sheila Kohler's beautiful haunting Becoming Jane Eyre captures Charlotte Bronte in the midst of composing her masterpiece.
Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Russell Fanelli VINE VOICE on December 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Halfway through Sheila Kohler's biographical novel Becoming Jane Eyre, I decided to reread the Charlotte Bronte original novel on which Kohler's book is at least partially based. Side by side I read Kohler and Bronte to get a better sense of Kohler's achievement with her novel. This was a good decision on my part because I was able to learn much about Charlotte Bronte in Kohler's novel that helped me appreciate Charlotte's achievement with Jane Eyre, surely one of the most popular of Victorian novels.

Kohler shows us how Charlotte Bronte's life contributed to her art, first with the unsuccessful first novel The Professor, and then with the very popular Jane Eyre. Additionally, we learn about Charlotte Bronte's family: father, son Branwell, and sisters Emily and Anne. All three sisters spend the lonely hours in their father's parsonage on the moors writing novels. They send them to various publishers only to be politely rejected, until Emily's Wuthering Heights - a great novel - and Anne's Agnes Gray find a publisher willing to print the books if the girls send fifty pounds to underwrite the project. This modest success of her sisters motivates Charlotte to finish Jane Eyre and it immediately becomes highly successful, changing Charlotte's life forever.

I asked myself several times during the reading of Becoming Jane Eyre about the potential audience for such a book and concluded that it will be for all those people interested in learning more about Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, and the Bronte family. I think this audience will not be disappointed in Kohler's work. The Bronte children lived short, mostly unhappy lives - Branwell, Emily, and Anne were dead by their late twenties or early thirties.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Janeite VINE VOICE on December 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I approached this book with skepticism as I didn't like the title (and still don't) and I'm leery and weary of books spinning off the brilliance of the Brontes and Austen. (If I see one more book continuing the story of Darcy and Elizabeth, I'll scream.) But as a total Brit. Lit. fan, I found the premise of this book engaging enough to give it a try, though I was expecting to throw in the towel before getting 20 pages in. How surprised I was to find this tale told in sparkling prose with a deep respect for the Brontes that kept me turning pages fervently until the end. I positively devoured this book in a few hours. The author's fictional voice of Charlotte Bronte charmed me utterly. I'm ashamed to admit that although I'm familiar with most of the "major" facts about the Bronte family, I've never read an entire scholarly biography of any of them. This book filled in the framework and made it warm and human. It made me feel as if I had gained a true understanding of what Charlotte and her family and situation were like. Of course, this is a work of fiction, but I felt that the author took very few liberties and stuck to the facts as they are known and generally accepted. She didn't throw in any wild surprises to make Bronte's life more interesting. Rather she told her story in a voice that seemed sincere and authentic and fleshed out the facts with real emotion. I think this is a very well done book that any Jane Eyre or Bronte fan will be glad to have read.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Esther Schindler TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I should start out by saying that I am not a die-hard Jane Eyre fan. As a teenager, I went through my Bronte phase, reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights with a wistful desire for a dark and brooding hero (I think most young book-centric girls do, while their not-so-book savvy friends have a horses-are-wonderful phase). But 19th century literature is rarely my first reading choice.

However, there's something about Jane Eyre that inspires people to explore the moor-filled worlds of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte. At least two of the books borne from Jane Eyre have inspired me, though in very different ways. First is Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair (which I heartily recommend as giggle-worthy for anyone as over-educated as I -- really, DO indulge in it). The other is Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, which I read in college. It significantly influenced my own writing (it describes the life of Rochester's mad wife and how she came to be that way -- without ever quite shouting, "I'm the other half of Jane Eyre!") because it taught me to look at a story (real life or otherwise) from different people's viewpoints. And of course there's Kate Bush's song, "Wuthering Heights" (it's on The Whole Story) to complete the mood.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. Melillo VINE VOICE on December 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author indeed does manage to work in sufficient details of the lives of the Bronte's to make clear connections with characters and situations in Jane Eyre (and some of the poetry), but overall it is a flimsy narrative. Many a tragedy or case of unrequited love are referenced, yet there is no passion in the book - more a sense of resignation and of being dutiful (including one quite clear illustration of what a drag it would have been to close one's eyes and think of England.)

Though I shall admit that the Bronte writings are not favourites of mine (I know them more through 'duty' as a student of literature than pleasure - and therefore may have met the approval of Charlotte's father), passion is a key element in, for example, both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. There are incidents referred to in this book which are sad, indeed miserable, but no note of passion is stricken. I did not feel the Bronte sisters were captured well, and the connections with (for example) Charlotte's experience of seeing her sister die at a dreadful school and a similar (immediately recognisable) incident involving Jane Eyre and schoolmate Helen are contrived and brief. Would that we got to see as much of Charlotte's budding literary fire as we do of papa's bedpan.

I did give the product three stars because I believe it could be a passable 'read' for a long and stormy afternoon, and that those who either love the Bronte's or who are just becoming familiar with their work could find the connections between life and work interesting.
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