2011: 20. Wide Sargasso Sea

“They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.”

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

        As I’m sure you know, this is a retelling of Jane Eyre, from the perspective of Bertha Rochester (the - SPOILER - madwoman in the attic).  Or, rather, not a straight retelling, but, rather, Bertha’s story.  And, you know, I should like this book more than I do.  I’m on the record as being interested in retellings of classic stories from other perspectives.  Rhys tells a hell of a story - atmospheric and meaningful, and makes a real person out of someone who was just a plot device.  And as feminist, can we talk about 1) what a creep Rochester is to lock his poor wife away and 2) how sketchy it is that we totally sympathize with him?  So, yes, this should be my wheelhouse.

       BUT, the fact is, I *do* sympathize with Rochester and Jane.  Maybe because I’ve read the book so many times, but I’m on team Jane, no matter how terrible Bertha’s situation is.  And, thus, even though I should like this book, my emotional reaction is to be miffed at it - like it’s smeared poor old Rochester (who, again, objectively sucks.  But emotionally, he’s dreamy.).  Silly reaction - this is objectively a great work, especially because it was one of the very first books to expand on classic literature in this way, and to bring an outsiders perspective (female* and creole) to classic literature.  But it gets my goat.

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Re-Read


*Although, Charlotte Bronte was hardly a literary insider, either.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017