My enthusiasm for this book was slightly dampened by its being assigned as a sister novel to, of course, Jane Eyre. If you’ve read Wide Sargasso Sea without realizing or being forced to compare it to Jane Eyre, congratulations. You are probably one of two or three people who have done so.
Now, I’m not particularly a fan of books that are written as entire spin offs of classics. Pride, Prejudice and Zombies is one example, as is Dracula in Love or True Blood (what is our society’s obsession with vampires anyways? It was so much better when everyone was obsessed with pirates). But every once in a while, a good one is made that warrants critical review, and such as the case of Wide Sargasso Sea, even earns itself a place in the list of 1001 Must Read Books.
The thing that I love about Wide Sargasso Sea is that, if you are one of the ones who had no idea that it was a prequel to Jane Eyre, it probably took you a long time to catch on, while with many other stories, they follow the plot and/or characters of the original so closely that it’s difficult to tell them apart. Wide Sargasso Sea doesn’t reveal the main character to be the wife of Edward Rochester, the hero of Charlotte Bronte’s novel.
Yes, what makes this book truly wonderful is that it brings a new level of understanding to one of my favorite sayings: “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”
This book not only brings a new understanding to the character of Bertha, Rochester’s insane wife in Jane Eyre, but paints Rochester to be a cold and cruel man, openly having a relationship with his wife’s servants, and even marrying her for her money alone, a fact that he does nothing to deny and even flaunts to Antoinette (aka Bertha, although how he got the nickname “Bertha” from Antoinette beats me). And even though it isn’t by the same author, it once again reminds me of how horribly oblivious we are to our own biases and tendencies for truth. While I thought that Rochester was an altogether real and likeable character in Jane Eyre, I was horrified and disgusted by the Rochester I found myself encountering in Wide Sargasso Sea.
Likewise, while I thought Bertha was an altogether terrible and completely cracked out lady in Jane Eyre, I could do nothing but cry (mentally) when I read her poor life’s story in Wide Sargasso Sea. Such a terrible life… how can that NOT end up making you crazy? *coughCaseyAnthonycough*
This book makes me all the more cautious when reading or listening to someone. No matter how black someone may be, sometimes it does one good to hear their side of the story as well. Which brings me to my thought-provoking question of the day: who is your favorite villain from either a book, movie, television show, bed time story etc.? And, more importantly, how did this bad guy ending up being, so.. well.. bad? Give me a short story for your super-villain. 🙂
PS. One of my favorite villains is Monsieur Thenardier from Les Miserables. I think he is a FANTASTIC character because he is truly, one of those evil people who you love to hate. But I think that at some point in his boyhood, he had desired to become a cheese maker. His harsh mother beat the shit out of this silly notion, citing his stupidity and her lack of funds set aside for his education, making him a depressed and embittered young man, who married his wife Madame Thenardier out of spite against his mother. Unfortunately, his wife turned out to be worse than his mother, and when he sees the darling, pure, and beautiful child Cosette, his long life of suffering and enduring womanly wraths has made him turn a blind eye on her, thus, sort of justifying his behavior in Les Miserables. Your turn 🙂