Novel: How Charlotte Bronte Created Jane Eyre
I recently (spring 2011) stumbled on Sheila
Kohler's 2009 biographical novel Becoming Jane Eyre. This seemed like
a rare find; I had no idea yet how large the universe of Bronte-related fiction was. Anyway, I decided to
peruse Kohler's version of how Jane Eyre came to be. My review is
Becoming Jane Eyre:
(Sadly, a computer crash destroyed my original version of
this review, so I will hit just a few of the most important notes here.)
Kohler, an accomplished writer and researcher, turned her talents toward this tale of Charlotte Brontë's young
adulthood, and how real-life events inspired some parts of her masterwork Jane
fictional Charlotte spends much of her time and energy caring for, and about, her blinded father and dissolute
brother. She and her sisters escape their cruel environment by working on novels and by supporting (and
occasionally arguing with) each other.
are largely occupied by her attraction to a former teacher (the basis for "Mr. Rochester"), her struggles to
protect her alcoholic and drug-abusing brother (framework for "John Reed"), and the mixed blessings brought upon
her by the acclaim for Jane Eyre. Her success as an author is
largely obliterated by many family members' tragic fates.
intricate prose and eye for detail make the story realistic and plausible. We're privy not just to Charlotte's
hopes and fears, but also to scene-enhancing details such as the color of draperies and type of chandelier in
her publisher's dining room. It's easy to produce mental images of these settings.
the book struck me as competently written and largely believable, it has a near-fatal aspect: it is boring.
Whereas Brontë's heroine Jane was a woman of powerful emotion and passionate speech and action, Kohler's
Charlotte spends too much time pondering her circumstances and too little time doing anything about them. In
that respect, this fictionalized author falls too far short of her creation.