Friday, June 29, 2007

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

First of all, I have to say that Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is one of my all time, top ten, favorite novels. The heroic, epic spiritual journey of Jane Eyre, from passionate, wild young girl to a wise, sensible, loving wife and mother is, to quote many of my students, awesome. Brontë captures all the elements of Campbell’s profile of the hero’s journey (Hero with a Thousand Faces). The emotions, the characters, the moral dilemmas, the love the hate, the strength and weakness, the courage and fear are remarkable, and, to my mind, overwhelming.
So, when I first heard of Rhys’ last novel as a “prequel” to Jane Eyre, I was a bit tentative. Didn’t I know all I needed to know about Rochester and Bertha from Brontë?
I must confess, I first read this in the fall of 1993 – my first semester in graduate school, so I did not have much choice. Rereading it for my book club was a special treat, and I was not the least bit disappointed. In fact, I noticed several things I had not noticed on the first reading 14 (YIKES!) years ago.
But I loved the story of the young (Antoinette, later Bertha) and her family. The parallels between WSS and JE are remarkable and fun to make. Rhys puts a feminist spin on the story, and I am glad she did. This is clearly a modern novel (written in 1966), but she has firmly anchored the story in the middle decades of the 19th century.
If you love Jane Eyre, I urge you to read this book. If you have never read Brontë’s best-known novel, read that first. You will not be disappointed.
--Chiron, 6/29/07

1 comment:

Bibliolatrist said...

this sounds great! Jane Eyre was my introduction to the classics and it's been a favorite of mine since!