Monday, October 17, 2011

For Bronte Fans—a book review


6394951Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler

(Copy of my Goodreads review)

First of all, let me say that I am a big fan of the works of the Bronte sisters.  I am also something of an admirer of Charlotte.  I recognize that this work is a novel, but it is undoubtedly based on research.  Unlike some of the other reviewers, I do not doubt that given the isolation and stress of the family situation and the fact that the three sisters were all writers, professional and sibling rivalry did exist.  However, those conflicts seemed to be more the focus of the latter part of this novel than I felt was warranted.  The story of the family is deeply moving, and I thought the novel slighted that aspect in favor of conflict.  Indeed, the last years of Charlotte's life were treated almost as an afterthought.

Perhaps I was misled by the title, but the book started with promise, switching back and forth from the hospital room in Manchester, where we know Charlotte began Jane Eyre, to episodes from the past.  Then, however, this novel seemed to lose focus.  I suppose I was expecting more of an analysis of how Charlotte was reflected in her own novel, and I did not find much of that.  I know just as much of how Anne's life is reflected in her books and how Emily used the Bronte family as material for Wuthering Heights.

I also felt that Charlotte's personal feelings were presented in a somewhat more hysterical fashion than I associate with her, particularly since part of the emphasis of Jane Eyre seems to be on controlling excessive display of emotion.  However, I will give the book the benefit of the doubt because I was listening to the audio book, and this feeling of mine may be due to the style of the reader.

I am glad I read this novel, and I did gain some insights into the family.  I just have trouble with this particular genre of fictionalized biography whenever I encounter it.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

Like you, I am a retired English teacher and Bronte fan. I read this novel last year. I was really looking forward to it, but I was also rather disappointed.