Wide Sargasso Sea
By: Jean Rhys
When reading Jane Eyre in the past I never really cared one way or another about Rochester. Taking his story at face value you feel kind of bad for him but me being me he was always more likable in movies when hot charismatic actors are playing him.
But boy reading Wide Sargasso Sea mainly makes me think run Jane, run!
So I first heard about this book as it’s a prequel of sorts (naturally not being written by Charlotte Brontë) to Jane Eyre.
If you haven’t read Jane Eyre and aren’t aware of the secret don’t read this! Wide Sargasso Sea is a quick read less than 150 pages in this edition but I still absolutely believe Jane Eyre should be read and read first.
Anyway you’ve been spoiler warned…
Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of Bertha- the mad woman in the attic. Rochester’s wife. Her actual name being Antoinette he just liked Bertha better so screw her identity right? Antoinette’s definitely got issues and neither one are particularly likable characters it’s a toxic relationship but he definitely comes off the worst.
Perhaps it’s also the ownership element that comes into play because once Antoinette marries him her money (like her identity) is his and she’s out of options. At a certain point he makes it clear that he sees her as nothing, absolutely nothing, but he’s not letting her go and he’s not giving her the money back.
That’s not to say her mental health issues and trauma aren’t real but he seriously, horribly exasperates them to his benefit and then feels bad for himself afterward. I really think this will affect my future readings of Jane Eyre because I’ll likely be thinking the whole time don’t fall for his crap girl! It’s not worth it cause the estate burns up anyway!
I also do wonder about the almost fan fiction element at play here. While I agree with the idea of a feminist take/response and it’s interesting to get the POV of the “mad woman in the attic” but feels a little odd to really change how a character in someone else’s work might be perceived and drastically at that… I feel a Jane Eyre reread coming on.
Recommend: Yes. On top of everything I also found this a rather engrossing read and more than worth reading with Jane Eyre to see how the stories outcome might look differently with this side of the tale.