Today I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
A prequel to Jane Eyre, it was published in the 1930’s. Taking place years before Jane Eyre meets Edward Rochester, the focus of the book is Antoinette Cosway, who is known to readers of Jane Eyre as Bertha Rochester, Mr. Rochester’s mad first wife. Antoinette Cosway and Edward Rochester are equally sold in the name of marriage. She is an heiress and he is a younger son in need of a wealthy wife.
What starts out as a story of young love turns into a story of vengeance, hate, mental illness and male power. If Bertha Rochester was Charlotte Bronte’s inner scream against the constraints that women were kept in during the 19th century, then Antoinette Cosway enlarges and opens up that inner scream.
I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea not only because today is National Book Lovers Day, but because the book publicly exposes the double standard that women have become the norm for women over the centuries.
Today I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea.
Fanfiction can be defined as fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc.
While some might think that this is a new concept with the age of the internet and social media, fanfiction is a much older genre than some might presume.
Wide Sargasso Sea, written in 1966 by Jean Rhys, is a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s literary masterpiece, Jane Eyre.
The novel is the story of Antoinette Cosway, a heiress who is creole by birth and living on a plantation whose glory days are long gone. When she grows up, she is married off an an Englishman, Edward Rochester who removes her from her island home and takes her to his gloomy isolated, Yorkshire estate to live. This is a story about madness, lust, greed and how women cope when they have no power to control their own lives.
The most recent film adaptation of this book was made in 2006 with Rebecca Hall as Antoinette and Rafe Spall as Edward.
What I enjoy about both the book and movie is that we are introduced to a character whose story we only know one side of. In Jane Eyre, Bertha Rochester is Edward’s secret wife, suffering from madness. Her only companion is a paid servant. In Wide Sargasso Sea, we meet Antoinette and we see the story from her point of view. We see the injustice not just being a woman in that era, but being a woman of mixed race in that era.
I recommend both.