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Wide Sargasso Sea: Backgrounds, Criticism…

Wide Sargasso Sea: Backgrounds, Criticism (Norton Critical Edition) (original 1966; edition 1998)

by Jean Rhys

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,449192973 (3.57)687
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
Title:Wide Sargasso Sea: Backgrounds, Criticism (Norton Critical Edition)
Authors:Jean Rhys
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (1998), Paperback, 270 pages
Collections:Removed from Library
Tags:read in 2007, 1001, swapped, fiction, woman authors

Work details

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)

  1. 262
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (aces)
  2. 71
    The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert (Imprinted)
  3. 20
    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)
  4. 20
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Philosofiction)
  5. 20
    Grendel by John Gardner (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Classics retold to give voice to silent characters important to their plots.
  6. 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.
  7. 32
    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.
  8. 00
    Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Cecilturtle)
    Cecilturtle: colonialisme
  9. 22
    Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston (cammykitty)
  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.
  11. 01
    Blessed Is the Fruit: A Novel by Robert Antoni (IsolaBlue)
  12. 02
    Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (GlebtheDancer)
    GlebtheDancer: Dark, foreboding, claustrophobic feel. Self-destruction of central character. Similar prose styles.
  13. 03
    Signed, Mata Hari: A Novel by Yannick Murphy (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Lush depiction of tropics with natives playing important roles, women "bought" and tragic endings

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» See also 687 mentions

English (185)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (191)
Showing 1-5 of 185 (next | show all)
Woah. Well, that was an intense little book. It paints a lush picture - you can see the colors, taste the humidity, it’s incredible. I can see that it is a powerful commentary and beautifully written. But, that being said, I really didn't enjoy it (Though maybe you're not supposed to? That much racism, classism, sexism, misery, tragedy - it's not exactly an intentional recipe for a good time.) and the commentary didn't land for me as I think it was supposed to. And, if I’m honest, as a wholehearted Jane Eyre fan, I was gonna have a hard time with a book that was going to besmirch one of my fave romantic heroes. So, maybe this is just me philistine-reading again.
The Rochester in this book is only half recognizable, and being half recognizable is fair enough an accomplishment... And, a hurtful accomplishment as he doesn't come across well here (though I didn't read his actions throughout as harshly as some). I did try to give the book space to do as much besmirching as it would choose to narratively. But I’d have believed him (and the book itself) more without his first person narration - though, I acknowledge that would have been a cop-out on Rhys' part.
As for Antoinette/Bertha... that’s harder, it’s so interesting to give her a character and a back story, but I didn’t really feel that that was successfully done here. Was it madness, was it magic, was it a reaction to a cruel and unjust and repressive society? Was it just too much rum? This just didn’t come together for me. I suppose I’m looking for the wrong things if I’m looking for reasoning in the beliefs and actions of a mentally ill character. I think also, she was so miserable and terrified from such a young age and believed herself to be predestined for more misery, so when that's what she got, it didn't land as hard as it should have for me as the reader.
The racial and colonial aspects of the story were a great deal more effective - this is a much more intimate and active account of a time period and subject than I’ve ever read before. It is usually danced around lightly, but this was a continual gut punch. I’m grateful to have been confronted with it and learn a bit more. ( )
  alailiander | Oct 24, 2019 |
This is a brave book to write. It tries to present a possible history to the mad woman in the attic, as presented in Jane Eyre. I has a very different setting and approach. Told by different narrators in the first person, it sometimes took a while before I could identify the narrator. It is a very interesting attempt the provide a backstory that is coherrent and convincing. It presents Rochester (who remains unnamed throughout) as both victim of circumstances and a creator of them. Some of the things he does are inexplicable, calling his wifer Bertha when her name is Antionetta, for example, seems to be a curious cruelty with no cause or explanation.
I am not one of those who fell for Jane Eyre as a love story, and neither is this. Love has a walk on part, but ends up shunted to the sidelines. It poses the bigger quesiton of are we trapped by our past and can we change our fate. Based on this, that would seem to ne a no. It's not a cheering book, well thought out and executed, but not exactly cheery. ( )
  Helenliz | Oct 20, 2019 |
Liked big chunks of this but could not finish it... ( )
  ElisaDiNapoli | Sep 16, 2019 |
This is the story of Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester's wife, Antoinette, aka Bertha. A beautifully written tale of oppression, sexism and racism (Antoinette and her mother are always under the thumb of some wealthier/whiter man). It is a depressing slog. Familiar with JE, I know how Antoinette's story ends (...mad woman in attic sets fire...) For lovers of great writing and those interested in personal tales of colonialism. ( )
  mjspear | Jul 30, 2019 |
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
4 stars

It‘s a novella, only 190 pages. For years it’s been one of those books that I felt I really ‘should’ read. It’s on so many lists, especially the lists promoting female authors and feminist principles. I was reluctant. I’m such a Jane Eyre fanatic. I didn’t want anything to spoil my first love.

Not a problem. For one thing, I can see these books as separate creations. Jean Rhys created a backstory for Edward Rochester’s first wife. It doesn’t deviate significantly from the information divulged to Jane in the original novel. Rochester was a second son who married a west Indian woman for her money. His own family conspired to push him into the marriage despite knowing her family’s history of insanity. He allows superficial attraction to obscure his judgement.

I was never very impressed with Rochester. My fondness for the Bronte book was all about Jane and her sense of personal integrity. I was inspired by the way she held her own against two egotistical, powerful men. Antoniette (Bertha) Cosway/Mason is the antithesis of Jane. She’s ripe for exploitation without the inherent personality traits that allowed Jane to defy her origins. It’s a sad story.

Naturally, I thought of Jane Eyre as I was reading this book. But, I was also comparing Antoniette to Mary Turner in Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing. That’s another sad story. Female sexuality, racial inequality, and madness. Thinking about those two tragic characters, Antoniette and Mary Turner, leaves me even more impressed with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. ( )
  msjudy | Jun 19, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 185 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rhys, Jeanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashworth, AndreaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daunt, ChrisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mooney, BelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, AngelaEditorsecondary 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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Average: (3.57)
0.5 6
1 38
1.5 9
2 146
2.5 47
3 380
3.5 116
4 508
4.5 59
5 255

W.W. Norton

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

» Publisher information page

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182857, 0241951550

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