Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966), The Prequel which inspired the Sequel to Jane Eyre: The Eyre Hall Series

I would never have written The Eyre Hall Series if I had not read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (I was about fourteen the first time I read it). Many of the characters and events in The Eyre Hall Series were inspired by Jane Eyre, however my main inspiration for writing The Eyre Hall Series was Wide Sargasso Sea, the prequel to Jane Eyre, written by Jean Rhys in 1966 (I read WSS, many years after JE, when I was over forty, at the suggestion of my friend and colleague, Anne Gerd Petersen).

Check out my review on Goodreads

Wide Sargasso Sea tells us Bertha Antoinetta Mason’s story from her childhood in Jamaica to her tragic death at Thornfield Hall. It was Ms Rhys’s retelling of ‘the madwoman in the attic’s’ story which inspired my unique character, and one of the protagonists of The Eyre Hall Series: Annette Mason.

Annette is Jane’s antagonist in Blood Moon at Eyre Hall. She is the child who was born in the attic to Bertha Mason, rejected by Edward Rochester, and surreptitiously removed by her uncle, Richard Mason, to a convent in Jamaica.

The Eyre Hall Series would not exist without Annette Mason. Annette was inspired by Jane Eyre (Jane dreams she hears a baby in Jane Eyre, more information below), and created as a tribute to Bertha Antoinette Mason, a wealthy Creole heiress who was used and abused by Edward Rochester in both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. (Read my post about The Madwoman in the Attic here).

“But there was no baby in the attic in Jane Eyre,” you may say.

Only Grace Poole, Edward Rochester and Richard Mason knew what was happening, or who was in the attic for ten years, and none of them was a reliable narrator. The baby was not there the day Mr Rochester opened the attic and showed Jane Eyre, the Vicar and the solicitor who was inside, but that doesn’t mean the baby hadn’t been there at some point during the previous years.

There are two scenes in Jane Eyre in which Jane dreams of a baby and hears its cries while she is sleeping directly under the attic at Thornfield Hall.

Chapter XXI of Jane Eyre, starts like this:

Presentiments are strange things! And so are sympathies; and so are signs; and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has not yet found the key.

Jane then tells the reader about her dream:

The past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an infant, which I sometimes hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me; but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore, it failed not for seven successive nights to meet me the moment I entered the land of slumber.

And in the following paragraph:

It was from companionship with this baby-phantom I had been roused on that moonlit night when I heard the cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoned downstairs by a message that someone wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax’s room.

This does not mean there was a baby in the attic. In fact, Jane attributes the dream to her childhood, but then, Jane has no idea what is going on in the attic, does she?

Jane’s dream also means that my imagining of the baby in the attic is not a feverish or absurd delusion. The baby is a result of reading between the lines of Jane Eyre. It is an account of what could have occurred in that attic, where the first Mrs Rochester was held prisoner for ten years, while her husband was away most of the time, galavanting with mistresses in the continent.

When I started writing the Eyre Hall Series in 2013, I had four characters in mind. Three first appeared in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, namely, Jane Eyre, Edward Rochester, and Richard Mason. The fourth belongs to my imagination: Annette Mason.

Annette Mason is meant to be a tribute to her mother, Bertha Antoinetta Mason. Her uncle, Richard Mason, has brought Annette to Eyre Hall for his own devious purposes, but from this author’s point of view, Annette has come to reinstate and vindicate her mother and face her mother’s rival: Jane Eyre Rochester. How will Jane react to Annette’s arrival, twenty-two years after her marriage to Edward Rochester? Well, you’ll have to read The Eyre Hall Series to find out!

Why not start with Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One, and see if it’s for you?

You can read the first chapter on this blog post:

Find out more about Blood Moon at Eyre Hall here:

International link to Blood Moon at Eyre Hall here

4 thoughts on “Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966), The Prequel which inspired the Sequel to Jane Eyre: The Eyre Hall Series

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