Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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Discussing the Pleasures of Story-Telling: Sheila Kohler Will Also Read at Benefit

Ellen Gilbert

“I’m delighted to do it for them,” said Becoming Jane Eyre author Sheila Kohler of her upcoming reading at a People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos benefit on Friday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. at The Nassau Club.

“It’s such a wonderful organization; I’m delighted to spread the word, if I can. It’s so important what they do, taking stories where they would not go otherwise.”

Colm Tóibín, currently the Princeton University Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Visiting Lecturer in Irish Letters, will introduce Ms. Kohler at the April 1 event.

“I will talk about how important stories have been to me,” said Ms. Koher, who was born in South Africa. “Reading enabled me to reach outside the environment I grew up in.”

Mr. Tóibín’s most recent books include The Empty Family: Stories, and the novels Brooklyn and The Master. “I’m a great fan of his work,” said Ms. Kohler, citing The Master as an inspiration for Becoming Jane Eyre. “Other people’s stories give us the courage to write our own,” she said, a description that also serves well for People & Stories’ programs.

People & Stories is a grassroots humanities program designed, according to its mission statement, “to create an enjoyable and enriching experience with literature for those who are not presently reading it independently.” In the program, short stories of literary merit are read aloud and discussed using a “well-developed method that draws upon the life experiences of basic readers to understand literature.” Ms. Kohler is a member of the organization’s board.

In addition to her well-received books, Ms. Kohler has a feature film based on her 1999 novel Cracks coming out on in New York and Los Angeles on March 18. “My heart was pumping all the way through,” she said of viewing a recent preview of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The movie, which stars Eva Green, was directed by Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley), and Ridley and Tony Scott were the executive producers. “I thought that Jordan did a wonderful job,” said Ms. Kohler, who grew up in a household without a television. “It’s supposed to take place in South Africa, and is about an abuse of power at an isolated boarding school. Eva Green is very beautiful, of course — perhaps too beautiful — but I understand that in the movies you have to do these things.”

Publishers’ Weekly described Cracks, which was Ms. Kohler’s third novel, as “polished, compact, and thrilling.” She noted that she is “writing more autobiographically” in her latest (number 12) book, Love Child, which is based on her mother’s life. “She was a very mysterious person, and I discovered much about her after she died. I let my imagination fill in the cracks.”

A dessert reception will follow Ms. Kohler’s April 1 reading. For ticket information call (609) 393-3230. For more information on Ms. Kohler, see To learn more about People and Stories, visit

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