Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
Becoming Jane Eyre
By Sheila Kohler
256 pages; Penguin


With Becoming Jane Eyre, Sheila Kohler joins the swelling ranks of novelists who imagine the inner lives of classic female English writers: this time, Charlotte Brontë. A buttoned-up, dutiful daughter and sometime governess, Charlotte was irresistibly drawn to a married French professor she dubbed "her Master" and "her black swan," apparently the inspiration for Jane Eyre's smoldering Mr. Rochester. What sets this story apart is Kohler's feel for the prickly drama behind the romance, as the three talented Brontë sisters—Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—vie for the only thing more seductive than a brooding gentleman in a drafty mansion: that is, of course, literary fame.