Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Norton 2016 (org 1966), 174 Pages
Introduction by Edwidge Danticat (read last, though, of course. I adhere to a strict policy of never reading Intros until I read the text. Ahem)
Challenge: For this month’s Classic Club Spin.
Genre: Fan-Fiction? Carribean Historical Fiction, an Anti-Romance, perhaps.
Type/Source: Tradeback / I finally had the opportunity and forethought to plan for a shopping trip to an Indie Bookstore who to my excitement and delight had a copy for me to purchase!
Will ship to anyone interested – just let me know your opinion of Jane Eyre.
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For those book-readers-and-pie-lovers who don’t already know, this work of fiction is the back story to one of the characters in Jane Eyre. Jane is the plucky poor governess who woos Rochester to marriage but then finds out that he is already married. And this first wife is living in his house, chained up in the attic! Sorry if I spoilt that for you, but I am truly shocked when I encounter people who don’t know what Jane Eyre is about. Book readers, even. How, I ask, do some college educated people I am friends with actually not know about Jane Eyre! A diverse world we live in; I keep finding out.
Anyway, Jean Rhys had read Jane Eyre and wanted to know more about this first Mrs. Rochester and so she put her ideas into this short novella.
I probably should reread it. It is atmospheric and confusing. It is stream of consciousness and vivid. It provides narrative on the lady’s childhood (tragic) and then switches to a time right after she is married to an Englishman and is this part is from this unnamed guy’s perspective. We know this is Rochester.
And he comes off as an asshole. The first part is rather straightforward and we sympathize greatly with Miss Antoinette and her sad mother and her scary circumstances – poor and friendless in hostile territory, a failed plantation on a Caribbean island. It is sketchy exactly how her fortunes turn but mother somehow remarries money… more tragedy happens and then Part 2.
Rochester marries Antoinette for her money, but doesn’t really remember everything cuz he gets the fever for a few weeks while all this is happening. Antoinette seems happy and crazy in love but Rochester is bewildered and befuddled and then finds out Antoinette’s true father was a drunk and much worse, her mother is ‘mad’, crazy, a whore. Rochester is filled with rage. He’s been tricked!
Antoinette also becomes enraged to find out this guy is a total jerk. Partly because he starts calling her Bertha – or was that before he got pissed off, I forget; but it was odd to me why he did that (and it is just so hard to think of the name Bertha as a “pretty” pet name – so confusing.) And THEN! He sleeps with a servant, UGH! and basically treats everyone like the asshole he is.
Part 3 is in England, to scenes familiar to those of us who know the setting and storyline of Jane Eyre.
Yikes… so rather than reread just yet, I post this and invite any of you to share/correct me on these thoughts.
I would love to take a class on Jane combined with discussion of this story, the history it depicts, the themes throughout both, and the motivations of both authors. Fun stuff!
The Introduction is excellent, too!
Four slices of pie. Alas, no pie nor pastry mentioned in Wide Sargasso Sea.
Cross another classic off my 50. Thank you Spin for the prompt to get this read.
I am on to my next: Vanity Fair – a classic I know little about (and what I might think I know seems to be wrong.) I know that Becky Sharpe is a famous conniving female character of literature and so far, Thackeray is entertaining in a Dickens kind of way…
[insert copyright note here and book cover image at top when I get back to a PC – I can’t figure out how to do that with this device…]