I’ve been wanting to read this book before even if I don’t have any idea what the story is all about. I was attracted in the book cover and also because my book club friends were talking about it before. As a jealous reader that I am, I didn’t think twice getting this when I saw this online for P75! I REGRET NOTHING.
I was looking for a nice book to satisfy my post-Jane-Eyre blues and I remembered having this copy! If you aren’t familiar with this book (like I was), it is known as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, so if you haven’t read the book, don’t read this post so you’ll not be spoiled!
“You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone. We are alone in the most beautiful place in the world…”
It’s about this white Creole woman named Antoinette Cosway, who is also known as Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre, she was fixed to marry this young man from England named Edward Rochester. It’s an account of her traumatic childhood experience in British-owned Jamaica after the 1833 Emancipation Act, the death of her love ones, Obeah, and unhappy marriage with Rochester that lead her to madness.
Jane Eyre hunted Jean Rhys after reading it that’s why she was inspired to write about the mysterious mad woman in the attic, Bertha Mason. I noticed how Jean Rhys paralleled Jane Eyre’s life to Antoinette Cosway’s:
- They both have traumatic life experience as a child. Jane Eyre was an orphan and struggled to belong and be loved while Antoinette struggled with her mother’s mental instability as well as the social class where they were branded as “white cockroaches” by the Black people.
- They both were sent to a boarding school. Jane Eyre was sent to Lowood Institute while Antoinette was sent to a convent.
- Jane Eyre is religious, but Antoinette is like an agnostic.
- They both have affinity/memories to red symbolism: Red room (Jane Eyre) and Red dress (Antoinette Cosway).
- The moon.
- Rochester lied to both of them.
- Rochester married both of them.
This book is really sad and depressing. Every thing was taken away from Antoinette Cosway, even her sanity. Life was so cruel to her and her family; no wonder why she refused to believe that there is God because they believe that God is playing deaf when they ask for help. Even Rochester, he made sure that she’ll suffer because he thought she’s part of connivance* happened.
“I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.”
I love how Jean Rhys wrote the book with two narrators: Antoinette and Rochester. Both you’ll know what is happening and what they are feeling towards each other. Maybe, it’s also done because Antoinette cannot speak her account anymore due to extreme sadness and depression. This is where I learn how evil Rochester is! That explains his distaste with the West Indies. But still, it’s still beyond the character we knew of in the book Jane Eyre.
Anyway, this book is amazing and worth reading. It satisfied by post-Jane-Eyre blues.
*Rochester was fixed to marry Antoinette Cosway for thirty thousand pounds without question.