Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Becoming Jane Eyre" by Sheila Kohler

I've had this for a couple years now, but never got around to reading it until now.  (I should post a picture of my TBR bookcase so you can see just what I'm up against.)  I decided the time had finally come, as I'm gearing up for my Jane Eyre read-along that starts in May.  The back cover said it was a sort of fictional biography, which I liked the sound of, as I don't know much about Charlotte Bronte herself, I must admit.

Becoming Jane Eyre traces Charlotte's writing of her famous novel, her efforts to publish it, and how its success changed her life.  It also shows Emily and Anne publishing their first novels before her, only to be eclipsed by their sister's success.  Their father's health problems and their brother's mental disturbances also play significant roles.

I really wanted to like this book, but alas, I didn't.  It was well-written, thought-provoking, insightful, and intelligent.  I feel now as if I knew a good bit of what life was like for Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte.  I sympathize with them greatly.  Kohler did a masterful job of weaving the Bronte novels in with their lives, showing how reality influenced story for them, and vice versa.  It was quite fascinating, really.

But I didn't like it solely because there was the occasional sordid passage that would sort of pop up unannounced, though none of them involved the sisters themselves.  These were entirely unnecessary, jarring, and made me blush.  So now you know.

However!  Sheila Kohler did make one observation that I loved, and I'm hoping I remember to bring it up again during the JE read-along.  Here it is:

Jane must choose between love without marriage or marriage without love (p. 147).

Not the entire point of the novel, but for part of it, that's huge.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R for explicit sexual material, and alcohol and drug use.

10 comments:

  1. Oh dear, I was so interested at the beginning of your review and that dwindled fast. WHY!? Why do authors include unnecessary sexual content?! ARGH! So I guess I won't be trying this one after all. Bleh.

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    1. Carissa, I KNOW!!!!!!! I was so excited by this book, and it started out so cool, and I was all happy thinking up ways to include it in the read-along, and then... pffffft. And it wasn't the kind of sexual content you can kind of gloss over, just like, "they embraced and made love and blah blah blah." No, it was explicit and nasty and I was ANGRY.

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  2. Sexual content has always a negative for me. I have Becoming Jane on my tbr so will probably read it at some point but will go in cautiously. Nice Review!

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    1. Whitney, it tends to be for me too. It depends on the nature of it, though. I don't mind that characters have sex, I just Do Not Need Details. Like, in The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, the two main characters have sex more than once. But it's vaguely described, if that makes sense. I have no problem with it. But here, it's too detailed, too explicit.

      If you do read the book, when you hit the part where her father starts to think about his wedding night, just skip ahead like a page or so. That's the worst part.

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  3. Aaarg! That's just terrible. *sigh* HATE when they put that stuff in!

    (And btw, I hadn't mentioned it, but I'm super intrigued about The Bronte Plot after your review, so it's landed on my to-check-out list. :))

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    1. Heidi, yes. I understand why, I just don't want it.

      Now, The Bronte Plot? That one I wholeheartedly recommend! And I'm liking Lizzy and Jane even better!

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  4. I've had this book on my wishlist for quite a while. Sex doesn't bother me that much, so I think I'll still read it at some point. Specially knowing Kohler did a good job with the rest, since Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics!

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    1. Masanobu, characters having sex doesn't bother me. I myself enjoy sex so very much. But just like I don't want to watch other people having sex in a movie, I don't want to read about it in a book either. I'm okay that they're doing it, I just don't want to have to witness it. Rather like I don't want a bunch of fictional characters in my bedroom.

      But the rest is well-written and insightful, so if that outweighs the ick for you, go for it.

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    2. I completely understand what you mean, and I think maybe I didn't make myself clear in my first comment? I mean that sex in a book doesn't bother me that much, even when it's not crucial to understading the story - or the life of Charlotte Brontë, as is the case. It's the same with swearwords - I myself don't employ them, but don't mind if they are used in books. If you see what I mean. I hope I didn't come across as insensitive!

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    3. Masanobu, no, I understood you! I was just afraid maybe I was coming across as, I don't know, anti-all-sexuality or something :-)

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