Wide Sargasso Sea the “Prequel” to Jane Eyre by Jean Rhys
Although my main inspiration in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was Jane Eyre, its “prequel” Wide Sargasso Sea, written over a hundred years later by Jean Rhys, has been almost equally responsible. Both novels are complimentary and it is their combined stories which have led to my “sequel” The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
Jean Rhys Rhys was born in Dominica, an island of the British West Indies to a Welsh doctor and a a third-generation Creole of Scots ancestry. Rhys tells the formerly untold story of Bertha Antoinette Mason from her birth in Jamaica to her death at Thornfield Hall. Antoinette who was gagged, emprisoned, and abused in Jane Eyre, is given a voice and a life, a real life, in Wide Sargasso Sea; a life Charlotte Bronte insinuated but never told. In WSS Antoinette tells Rochester; “there is always the other side, always”, and that is the story Rhys weaves in Part One which Antoinette narrates.
Rochester narrates Part Two and is shown up as the shady, unscrupulous character he became in JE. His elder brother was to inherit the Rochester Estate, so his father arranged a marriage to a rich Jamaican heiress for Edward, his second son. Rochester disliked Jamaica and although his wife was beautiful, he was not aware that she was Creole, and it displeased him, especially after marrying her and disposing of her generous dowry. When he inherited the family Estate due to both his brother and father’s sudden deaths he decided it was time to return to England. That was when he locked Bertha away in a windowless, cold and damp attic, and then went gallavanting to France, as he himself admits to Jane.
The Third and Final Part is told once more by Antoinette who has become the “mad” Bertha and is set on burning the house and its occupants.
Bertha’s brother (half-brother in WSS), Richard Mason, is a secondary but vital character in both novels. It is Richard who oversees Rochester and Bertha’s marriage arrangements (WSS), and it is Richard who interrupts Rochester and Jane’s bigamous marriage (JE). And it is Richard Mason who opens The Eyre Hall Trilogy bringing Mrs. Jane Rochester devastating news of his sister once more, twenty-two years after her death. Bertha’s story is not over, because Bertha and Jane are irrevocably tied to each other; they shared the same husband in the first two novels, and in my sequel they will have to share the same descendents.
I will be posting the opening page shortly.
Read my Goodreads Review of Wide Sargasso Sea