Sheila Kohler

Welcome to the official site for Sheila Kohler.

"When my sister died a violent death thirty years ago in apartheid South Africa, my writing took a new turn. I was driven to explore the reasons for violence within intimate relationships, in particular, the abuse of power and privilege. Since then I have published nine novels, three collections of short stories, and several others not yet collected, all of which focus in some way on this theme. Now I have written this story in the form of a memoir, "Once we were sisters." These books and stories represent my attempt to delve into the mysteries of hate and anger, and of love and compassion, as well. I am hoping that you will share them with me.." 


Latest News
Sheila's interview for Once We Were Sisters- Good Grief with Cheryl Jones -
Talk/Q&A/Signing @Corner Bookstore - Tuesday, January 17th -

 Tuesday, January 17th

Corner Bookstore

6:00pm Talk/Q&A/Signing

1313 Madison Avenue @93rd St.

New York, NY  10128

Event Link:


ONCE WE WERE SISTERS will be published in January 2017. 

Reviews for "ONCE WE WERE SISTERS" -

The Guardian Review

The Telegraph Review

 “Young Sheila Kohler abandons the time-warp of 1950s South Africa and heads for Europe on a voyage of self-discovery. Her quest to find out what it is that she desires—a quest that will last decades and is recounted with the seriousness it deserves, lightened with touches of dry comedy—ends in the discovery that she is and has always been a writer. The most striking parts of this rich and poignant memoir—rich above all in sensual experience—reflect on the necessary cruelty of the writer’s art, sacrificing the truth of the world to the truth of fiction.” —J.M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

“Throughout her literary career, Sheila Kohler has obsessively tried to find closure and justice for her sister’s untimely death and, finally, in this memoir she has succeeded in coming to terms with the tragedy by movingly recalling their childhood together and expressing her love for her sister.” —Lily Tuck, National Book Award-winning author of The Double Life of Liliane

“For unto whom much is given, of him shall be much required: this Biblical verse takes on a tragic ring as this memoir of a privileged childhood ends in murder. Sheila Kohler has put together this heartfelt, suspenseful confession with a lifetime’s worth of skill and an abundance of inborn genius.” —Edmund White, author of A Boy’s Own Story

“Sheila Kohler has written a beautiful and disturbing memoir of a beloved sister who died at the age of thirty-nine in circumstances that strongly suggest murder. Like all of Sheila Kohler’s prose work, Once We Were Sisters reveals its story by degrees, amid a richly sensuous milieu of South African white privilege and repression. It is a tragic tale, with echoes of cultural sexism and misogyny, yet a triumphant story of a young woman’s liberation from this culture and her emergence as a writer. Highly recommended.” —Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award-winning author of Them

“Sheila Kohler's writing is visually potent, viscerally compelling, and intensely personal. In Once We Were Sisters she conjures a lost world of privilege, violence, and repression that has chilling parallels in contemporary life.” —Rebecca Miller, author of Personal Velocity

“This lean memoir cuts straight to the heart of what it is to love—and lose—a sister. Kohler sidesteps nothing; her private rage, regret, heartbreak, and revelation mingle unforgettably with the public shame of apartheid. Once We Were Sisters is an exquisite and devastating book.” —Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ordinary Light

“To write a first-rate memoir is to encounter a mystery. In Sheila Kohler's brilliantly intelligent, beautifully written, sensually detailed, sexy, exquisitely restrained and shocking memoir, there are several mysteries: Why do we act the way we do? Why are we passive when we should be active, and vice versa? What does it take for a young woman to find out who she is? What griefs, what losses must attend that discovery? How to account for the cruelty and self-indulgence of men, or the willed blindness and guilt of women? 'What is it I have done or failed to do?' the memoirist keeps asking here, and her responses are unfailingly, stringently honest.” —Phillip Lopate, author of Being With Children

World Rights sold for "Once we were sisters" -

Sheila has sold the world rights to "Once we were sisters" my memoir, to Jamie Byng at Canongate in England. The book is forthcoming in the States in January and in February in England.

Sheila's New Blog -

Sheila Kohler is now blogging for Pscychology Today at:

Sheila's Latest Novel -

Sheila Kohler's latest novel, "Dreaming for Freud" published by Penguin

Praise for Sheila Kohler:

"Kohler handily exploits the therapeutic deadlock between the two principals to reveal character. Freud’s insecurities, frustrations, self-absorption and longing—for a more prosperous existence, for a trip to Rome, for the return of his estranged friend Fliess—are sensitively evoked, as are Dora’s internal conflicts.

As both the patient’s and the doctor’s vulnerabilities are exposed, the very nature of a person’s “story” is called into question."

"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

"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."

"Her stories are elegant, smooth, and gorgeously sensual, belying the tension that crackles beneath. Long after I’ve finished reading one of her stories, the image continues to pulse."
—AMY TAN, author of The Joy Luck Club

Cathy Medwich puts "Becoming Jane Eyre" at the top of her list of romantic reads -

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.
— Cathleen Medwick Review of Love Child -

Read the review of  "Love Child"

New York Journal of Books review of Love Child -

 Read the New York Journal of Books review of "Love Child

Publisher's Weekly Review of Love Child -

 Read the review of "Love Child

 read more ...
My Latest Book
One We Were Sisters


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