Wide Sargasso Sea was billed as a prequel to Jane Eyre and it seemed quite fittingly to read this, as Jane Eyre was only discussed at the end of last year.
I think it was fair to say that some book members struggled to follow the flow of the story and if it hadn’t only been 120 pages long that a few of us may not have finished it. A couple of members did enjoy and gave us an insight in to what the structure of the story was about.
The main premise of the story was the inter island relations and the relationships between the characters. Antoinette is the young girl that is married off to Rochester (someone who is not made clear who he is until near the end of the story). The family of Antoinette’s had made their money through slavery and Rochester was married off to a seemingly rich heiress. Unfortunately the family weren’t as they seemed. The slaves had been taken away and the family had lost their power in the society and were treated as outcasts. There was also the problem of ‘madness’ running through the family. Antoinette’s Mother had seemingly gone mad, but then when you examined the evidence that she had seen her son die in his crib – was it just grief that engulfed her, that the society deemed as madness?
Antoinette had also had a challenged life. Her Mother had rejected her and she constantly had a lack of happiness. Once her Step-Father died, the family couldn’t get rid of her quick enough and she ended up in an arranged marriage with Rochester.
Antoinette had this misguided notion that Rochester will change her life and take her off to England where she feels she will have a happier life. What she doesn’t realise is that Rochester himself has come with the baggage of his family rejecting him and begins to feel trapped within the marriage, with a woman he doesn’t love, reacting badly towards her. He begins to call her Bertha and wondered if this is because he wants to take her identity away from her? Whatever the reason, everything that has happened to Antoinette in her life begins to build up and when she is told she is going mad, at some point she believes it and then becomes the ‘mad woman in the attic’.
One book member disliked the way the author used another author’s characters but then we find that the author after reading Jane Eyre wanted to stick up for the society in which Antoinette lived and we began to understand her reasonings behind doing this.
We asked if it changed the way we viewed Rochester but then Jane Eyre catches him at a later time in his life and was Jane Eyre herself, his salavation? Also Rochester chose to keep Antoinette and care for her in his own home rather than throw her in an institution.
I think the overall verdict was that we found the book interesting – some more than others!