Being an English major, I was required by a specific course to read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. If you do not know what the story is about, I’ll give a quick summary. It is the story of the “mad” woman in Jane Eyre. It gets into the mind of this woman. It explains why she is how she is. If you already dislike Rochester, this book will only help to kindle your hatred for him. I myself have never read Jane Eyre, however, I have a friend that loves the book and her hatred for Rochester only grew after finishing Wide Sargasso Sea.
Anyways, on with what I have to say. The copy I have is “A Norton Critical Edition.” It has sections from Jane Eyre, letters written by the author, and criticism on the story in different theoretical perspectives. Some of the letters didn’t seem to fit with the story at first, but as I read on it began to make sense. It was her process of writing the story of the Bertha. The author even includes part of her life within the back of the book for the readers to understand her connection with the “mad” woman and how some of her own experiences influenced the book.
As for the story itself, it was nothing short of wonderful. There were times I wouldn’t want to put the book down, but I had to. You didn’t want to get too far ahead of the others in the class. That could lead to some spoilers being mentioned. Had I read the book that inspired this story, I would have probably found a new light being shown on the woman in the attic. It’s easy to find feminism within the book along with symbolism. The criticism in the book help to emphasize this along with other perspectives.
Even though I HAD to read this book, I recommend others read it for pure enjoyment. Unless you wish to read some of the background on the story or the criticism that has been published, I suggest you just find a normal copy of the book. If you do enjoy reading such things, the Norton edition that I have seems to be a good copy to pick up.