Friday, January 20, 2017

Sheila Kohler's "Once We Were Sisters"

Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of over one dozen works of fiction including the novels Dreaming for Freud, Becoming Jane Eyre, and Cracks, which was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and made into a film starring Eva Green.

Kohler applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new memoir, Once We Were Sisters, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Once We Were Sisters is about my mother. "She drifts around our various dwelling places, smoking her filtered cigarettes, leaving the stain of her lipstick on their burned out ends and on the crystal glasses from which she drains her whiskey greedily to the last drop, tipping back her head." She is, with my sister, of course, one of the most important people in my story. I come back to her again and again all the way through the book, with all her secrets, her silences, her power over those around her, and her fascination. Though she has been dead now for many years, I see her so vividly moving around in my mind and my heart. I describe how she sleeps, how she speaks, how she drinks. She is probably the most vividly portrayed character in the whole book, the one who dominates our story, though this is my sister’s story, the story of her death. Here Mother is half-naked pulling on her corsets with their whalebones, the lace, and suspenders. She sweats and groans.

I think Ford Madox Ford's statement is correct. On every page of the book the voice, the imagery, the tone, is the same. This is a world created through the use of visual elements which are those which I see in my mind, in my memory so clearly: the vast garden of our childhood, with its jacarandas, fishponds and pools; the wide bed where our mother allowed us to climb up in the mornings, above all the bright African sunlight. All of this is filtered through my regret, my guilt, at the loss of my older sister in such dramatic and violent circumstances. My mother, too, watches this happen apparently helpless to stop the violence, the death of this beautiful, and brilliant woman at thirty nine years old, her older girl, the mother of six children, my only sister.
Visit Sheila Kohler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dreaming for Freud.

My Book, The Movie: Dreaming for Freud.

--Marshal Zeringue