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Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

The Original Fan Fiction Prequel Marks its 50th Anniversary

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It may not be entirely fair to refer to Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (WW Norton & Co.; reissuing January 25, 2016) as the first great work of fan fiction—it stands entirely on its own as a classic. But the “prequel” to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, which celebrated its 50th anniversary of publication this week, is the grandmamma of an entire genre that has spun some classic novels. In case you missed it in English class, Wide Sargasso Sea answers one of the biggest questions from the pages of Jane Eyre—who was the woman in the attic and what drove her mad? Author Rhys wasn’t satisfied with Bronte’s explanation that all Creole women are crazy and instead spent nearly…

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