Wide Sargasso Sea, written by Jean Rhys, tells the story of Bertha, the madwoman in Mr. Rochester’s attic in Jane Eyre. Written 120 years after Jane Eyre, it is set in the Caribbean where Antoinette Cosway (Bertha) meets Mr. Rochester and marries him.
Upfront you should know that Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, so for an author to try to recreate even part of that story is a huge leap for me. Still, though, I was intrigued by the concept of a sort of prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s story. The concept is something to praise, and I commend the author for giving more of a life to the woman in the attic. She gave her a name and a story. That is worth the 190 pages of writing.
The problems I find with this short book is that the plot is muddy. The point of view switches between characters without much warning to the reader, and the minor characters are not well-defined. I don’t want to say much more on the negatives, though, because the fault could be mine. Part of me thinks a re-reading could be useful because maybe I was blinded by my love for Jane and not in a good place to be reading this book.
While I may not have found this book fulfilling as a prequel to Jane Eyre, I do think the story could stand on its own. For me, it won’t rank on the top of my list of books I have read, but I do respect the author for her imagination about a hidden character.