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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

by Jean Rhys

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,695171747 (3.58)621
Recently added byclaireb, phoibee, ktoonen, nams55, WHOStaffLibrary, private library, FionaLiddle, claire_hammers, rebecajeanne
Legacy LibrariesGraham Greene
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    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (aces)
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    The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert (Imprinted)
  3. 31
    March by Geraldine Brooks (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Classic stories (Little Women/Jane Eyre) re-imagined through the experiences of characters who are important to the plot while being almost entirely unseen.
  4. 10
    Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector (Petroglyph)
    Petroglyph: Even though Near to the wild heart was written some twenty years prior to Wide Sargasso Sea, these two share numerous features: the interior monologue, the lyricism, the heroine mostly living inside her skull, the central character who doesn’t see a way out of their mental frustrations with life. Lispector kicked all that up a few notches, but to me these two belong close together on my mental shelves.… (more)
  5. 10
    After Mrs Rochester by Polly Teale (srdr)
    srdr: This brilliant drama illuminates the themes that run through Jean Rhys's life, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Jane Eyre.
  6. 10
    Grendel by John Gardner (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Classics retold to give voice to silent characters important to their plots.
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    Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston (cammykitty)
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    Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Cecilturtle)
    Cecilturtle: colonialisme
  10. 01
    Bug-Jargal by Victor Hugo (Medicinos)
    Medicinos: Bug-Jargal décrit une société antillaise basée sur l'exploitation des esclaves qui éclate lorsque ces derniers se rebellent. La prisonnière des Sargasses décrit une société analogue après la rébellion.
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    Blessed Is the Fruit: A Novel by Robert Antoni (IsolaBlue)
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    GlebtheDancer: Dark, foreboding, claustrophobic feel. Self-destruction of central character. Similar prose styles.
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    Anonymous user: Lush depiction of tropics with natives playing important roles, women "bought" and tragic endings

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» See also 621 mentions

English (165)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  All (1)  Spanish (1)  All (170)
Showing 1-5 of 165 (next | show all)
I'm interested in fictional re-imaginings and departures from established novels, though there's great room for it to be done poorly. Not so in the case of this book, the effect of which is no secret. I remain on Rochester's side as he appears in the source and I dislike hearing that some decide they hate Rochester after reading WSS, but this book is brilliant for really humanizing Bertha. It has strong sensual elements, evoking a very strong feeling of the Jamaica Bertha lived in, immersing the reader in it. Ought to have read it muhc sooner than I did. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Jane Eyre spinoff, attempting the kind of revisionism of the mad woman in the attic that any modern reader must needs crave. That mysterious creature's back story is filled out, in the colonial West Indies, awash with suspicions and rumours, deceit and dreamy impressions. And yet she, the hidden and shaming first Mrs Rochester, here still seems to lack control of her own fate. The tale, her motives and character - all remain elusive. In which light, the reader may yet be forgiven for connecting more with the resolution and clarity that Charlotte Bronte achieves. ( )
  eglinton | Mar 27, 2017 |
This compelling short novel creates a very plausible back story for Bertha Mason Rochester, the "mad woman in the attic" of Jane Eyre's Thornfield Hall. Born Antoinette Cosway, and re-named "Bertha" by her disillusioned husband, this woman should be a sympathetic figure, but I found I could not take her part, as I could not quite get a grip on the true cause of her madness. Did she break up (as her West Indian servant and confidant Christophine refers to her mental disturbances) because of unrequited love for Mr. Rochester, or because her own mother drifted into insanity and rejected her when she was a young girl, or because she witnessed her mother being sexually exploited and was therefore predisposed to sexual dysfunction herself? Christophine blames Mr. Rochester for "(making) love to her till she drunk with it...till she can't do without it. It's she can't see the sun any more. Only you she see." Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Rhys's story is the suggestion that Antoinette has been driven mad by lust. If your romantic soul has shared Jane's love and compassion for Mr. R since you first read the classic, you will hate what Rhys has done to him. Because if it's hard to warm up to Antoinette, even after knowing what all happened to her in her childhood, it's impossible not to see Rochester as heartless, cruel and vindictive here. Even though he does not put his wife away from him, but takes her to England and has her cared for in what was probably viewed as a benevolent fashion at the time, his automatic rejection of her based on a letter filled with accusations of congenital madness, interracial affairs and incest; his inability to accept her culture and concepts of beauty as equal to his own; and his blatant act of infidelity within her hearing make him one reprehensible SOB. A tragic fire in Antoinette's childhood foreshadows the ultimate "bad end" she eventually visits on herself. Brilliantly done, and mightily unsettling. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Mar 19, 2017 |
A great story about a young Kreolin, who lives in her dream world, so she can survive, because she lives all her life just against evil. She is growing up when slavery has been banned. She belongs nowhere, since she is neither a white nor a black one. She is a mixed-blood who is treated like a dog. Her mother was crazy by all these happenings and now everyone believes that this is happening to her too. She never gets a real chance. Only once did she feel safe, when she was at the monastery school.
I like how Rhys writes this story with great sensitivity. The narrative is in the form I times out of the view of the young girl, then again from the view of her husband. This style of writing makes the story so lively. ( )
  Ameise1 | Mar 2, 2017 |
Published in 1966 (second year of my birthday challenge reading), Wide Sargasso Sea is how Jean Rhys imagines and humanizes "the mad woman in the attic" from Jane Eyre. Antoinette Mason is a white Creole living in Jamaica; later as a young woman she is married off to Mr. Rochester who comes from England in hopes of acquiring her fortune. He is not a sympathetic character here -- additionally, he tries to Anglicize Antoinette by calling her "Bertha". Gradually, in almost a dream-like trance, we see how Antoinette/Bertha become who she is at the time she is transported to England to Mr. Rochester's home. Interestingly, he is never actually named but the maid Grace Poole is, so there is no doubt.

This is a short book considering number of pages (the copy I read from had 171 pages) but not a quick read. The writing isn't difficult, but requires close attention in order to understand what all is going on. Upon finishing, it has stayed with me -- so much so that I bought a copy of my own (had originally read a library copy) with the intentions of re-reading in the near future.

The reader does not necessarily have to have previously read Jane Eyre but some knowledge of the story is helpful. Additionally, this isn't a prequel in the truest sense but focuses more on the female experience in post-colonial West Indies. Jean Rhys herself was born in Dominica and the daughter of a British father and a white Creole (the term is used in the book) and moved to Europe as a young woman. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 165 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean Rhysprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ashworth, AndreaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyndham, FrancisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.
'If you are buried under a flamboyant tree,' I said, 'your soul is lifted up when it flowers. Everyone wants that.'
The saints we hear about were all very beautiful and wealthy. All were loved by rich and handsome young men.
Reality might disconcert her, bewilder her, hurt her, but it would not be reality. It would be only a mistake, a misfortune, a wrong path taken, her fixed ideas would never change.
'So between you I often wonder who I am and where is my country and where do I belong and why was I ever born at all.'
'You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone.'
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393308804, Paperback)

In 1966 Jean Rhys reemerged after a long silence with a novel called Wide Sargasso Sea. Rhys had enjoyed minor literary success in the 1920s and '30s with a series of evocative novels featuring women protagonists adrift in Europe, verging on poverty, hoping to be saved by men. By the '40s, however, her work was out of fashion, too sad for a world at war. And Rhys herself was often too sad for the world--she was suicidal, alcoholic, troubled by a vast loneliness. She was also a great writer, despite her powerful self-destructive impulses.

Wide Sargasso Sea is the story of Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress who grew up in the West Indies on a decaying plantation. When she comes of age she is married off to an Englishman, and he takes her away from the only place she has known--a house with a garden where "the paths were overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest tree ferns, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach or for some reason not to be touched."

The novel is Rhys's answer to Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë's book had long haunted her, mostly for the story it did not tell--that of the madwoman in the attic, Rochester's terrible secret. Antoinette is Rhys's imagining of that locked-up woman, who in the end burns up the house and herself. Wide Sargasso Sea follows her voyage into the dark, both from her point of view and Rochester's. It is a voyage charged with soul-destroying lust. "I watched her die many times," observes the new husband. "In my way, not in hers. In sunlight, in shadow, by moonlight, by candlelight. In the long afternoons when the house was empty."

Rhys struggled over the book, enduring rejections and revisions, wrestling to bring this ruined woman out of the ashes. The slim volume was finally published when she was 70 years old. The critical adulation that followed, she said, "has come too late." Jean Rhys died a few years later, but with Wide Sargasso Sea she left behind a great legacy, a work of strange, scary loveliness. There has not been a book like it before or since. Believe me, I've been searching. --Emily White

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:45 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Beautiful and wealthy Antoinette Cosway's passionate love for an English aristocrat threatens to destroy her idyllic West Indian island existence and her very life.

» see all 7 descriptions

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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182857, 0241951550

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