Synopses & Reviews
Read Sheila Kohler's posts on the Penguin Blog.
A beautifully imagined tale of the Bronte sisters and the writing of 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.
"South African Kohler's well-written seventh novel takes the lives of the Bronts: 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. Bront, the Bront 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“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
“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
Praise for Dreaming for Freud:
“Sheila Kohler is a gifted story teller, as this her latest attests. Dreaming for Freud is well-crafted, depicting two great, strong-willed characters: the forty-five year old Sigmund Freud and the feisty seventeen-year-old patient he made famous as Dora. Kohler reveals her secrets slowly, layer by layer, teaching us much about the early days of Freuds ‘talking cure. Like any good mystery writer, she keeps us suspended until the very end. This is a compelling and very satisfying read.”—Selden Edwards, New York Times bestselling author of The Little Book
“Sheila Kohler has written a slyly subversive, subtle and sensuous revisionist interpretation of Sigmund Freud and his iconic Dora case that might be subtitled ‘The Analyst Analyzed.”—Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Mulvaneys
“Freuds insecurities, frustrations, self-absorption and longing...are sensitively evoked, as are Doras internal conflicts. As both the patients and the doctors vulnerabilities are exposed, the very nature of a persons ‘story is called into question.”—Kirkus
“In this meticulously researched novel, Kohler infuses Freuds case report of his analysis of Dora with a richly imagined, entirely credible reading between the lines. Her effortless prose is powerfully evocative of the characters, the times, and the essence of the unique relationship that we call psychoanalysis.”—David I. Joseph, M.D., George Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
“Known for her expressive writing and insightful explorations of her characters inner lives, Kohler is the ideal novelist to relate the story of Sigmund Freud and his best-known patient, the pseudonymous Dora....With delicate precision, Kohler traces their ongoing dynamic.”—Booklist
“The sensual prose re-creates bourgeois 1900s Vienna and surrounding mountain resorts with a seductive lushness that draws the reader in. The authors deftly perceptive characterizations, meanwhile—a nuance here, a reference there—create alternately sympathetic and frustrated reactions to both the patient and the doctor....Kohlers intelligent novel will be very much enjoyed by fans of Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufmans Freuds Mistress.”—Library Journal
Praise for Sheila Kohler's work:
“Kohler is undoubtedly a talent to watch.” - Vogue
“Hypnotic…unsettling…a combination of domestic drama and psychological thriller.” - San Francisco Chronicle
“Erotic and disturbing.” - Vanity Fair
“Riveting…. Kohlers writing is so smoothly confident and erotic that she has produced a tale resonant with a chilling power all its own” - Elle
“Spare, haunting” - Marie Claire
“A real master of narrative.” - Kirkus
“Her themes of displacement and alienation cut to the heart as she quietly strips away the tales we tell ourselves in order to go on from day to day.” - Booklist
“There is a territory - fictional and psychological - that Sheila Kohler has now marked as her own. It is a real achievement. I am full of admiration.” - J.M. Coetzee
“Sheila Kohlers timeless stories are always transporting. The elegance of her writing underscores the charged, disturbing behavior she presents so vividly.” - Amy Hempel
“I was absolutely enthralled reading Sheila Kohlers latest collection. Her stories are elegant, smooth, and gorgeously sensual, belying the tension that crackles beneath. Long after Ive finished reading one of her stories, the image continues to pulse.” - Amy Tan
“Compelling and beautifully nuanced.” - Elizabeth Strout
An award-winning author reimagines one of Freuds most famous and controversial cases
Acclaimed for her spare prose and exceptional psychological insights in her novels Becoming Jane Eyre and Love Child, Sheila Kohlers latest is inspired by Sigmund Freuds Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Dreaming for Freud paints a provocative and sensual portrait of one of historys most famous patients.
In the fall of 1900, Doras father forces her to begin treatment with the doctor. Visiting him daily, the seventeen-year-old girl lies on his ottoman and tells him frankly about her strange life, and above all about her father's desires as far as she is concerned. But Dora abruptly ends her treatment after only eleven weeks, just as Freud was convinced he was on the cusp of a major discovery. In Dreaming for Freud, Kohler explores what might have happened between the man who changed the face of psychotherapy and the beautiful young woman who gave him her dreams.
About the Author
Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She later lived in Paris for fifteen years, where she married, completed her undergraduate degree in Literature at the Sorbonne, and a graduate degree in Psychology at the Institut Catholique. She moved to the U.S. in 1981 and earned an MFA in Writing at Columbia. She is the author of thirteen works of fiction, including the novels Becoming Jane Eyre and Cracks, which was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and made into a film starring Eva Green. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, O Magazine and included in the Best American Short Stories. She has twice won an O'Henry Prize, as well as an Open Fiction Award, a Willa Cather Prize, and a Smart Family Foundation Prize. Kohler teaches at Princeton University and lives in New York City.