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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
6,256183966 (3.57)678
Recently added bypqfuller, jenniferw88, Bookishsimms, quickxotica, private library, wilky27, folivier, Sandee88
Legacy LibrariesGraham Greene
  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. 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. 31
    Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston (cammykitty)
  5. 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)
  6. 10
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Philosofiction)
  7. 10
    Grendel by John Gardner (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Classics retold to give voice to silent characters important to their plots.
  8. 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.
  9. 00
    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.
  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 678 mentions

English (175)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (181)
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books of all time and this book is a prequel to it. Anyone who knows the story of Jane Eyre knows that Mr. Rochester's wife was kept in a locked room in the attic while Rochester pretended she was dead. This is the story of that unfortunate woman.

Antoinette Cosway was the daughter born to an Englishman and a white Creole woman from Domenica. When her father died he left his wife and two young children living in poverty in an old plantation house in Jamaica. Rescue came in the form of another Englishman who married Antoinette's mother. However after a violent incident involving former slaves Antoinette's brother died and her mother was declared insane. When her stepfather died he left half of his estate to Antoinette which encouraged another Englishman, Mr. Rochester, to marry her and take over all her fortune. Such was the fate for wealthy women with no protectors at the time. Mr. Rochester is not the tragic figure he was in Jane Eyre; his treatment of Antoinette is far from beneficial and could be responsible for some of Antoinette's later problems.

I enjoyed some parts of this book but I really found it a bit disjointed and hard to follow. ( )
  gypsysmom | Mar 30, 2019 |
Jean Rhys created out of Bertha Mason, the proverbial madwoman-in-the-attic, Antoinette Cosway, a bright and tragic Creole girl. Wide Sargasso Sea is a very slim book, something I’d forgotten after becoming used to seeing the fattish spine of my Norton edition, and also because so much is accomplished. The book can exist independantly of Jane Eyre but I challenge anybody to read it and not have their whole idea of Charlotte Brontë’s classic altered.

Rhys draws on her own family history and experience in Dominica to give Antoinette a history. Her childhood is advanced from sometime in the 18th century (if one followed Jane Eyre’s timeline) to occur soon after the emanciaption of slaves in British Jamaica in the 1830s, where she witnesses a great deal of violence and some serious trauma. As if this background wasn’t enough to screw her over she is destined to marry an Englishman representing ideas wholly alien to her. From his perspective we see distrust and contempt towards blacks and “native” culture, and witness how his affection towards Antoinette, who he insists on calling Bertha, dissolves beneath allegations made against her. Allegations, some based in fact, that he uses as an excuse to distance himself from a wife he had already become uneasy about because of her differences.

I can almost understand how it took her something like twenty years to write Wide Sargasso Sea, it so seamlessly fits into place. Having read recently another two-decade book, I must admire the restraint and craft of Rhys for her to be able to convey so much meaning in so few words. Antoinette’s condition isn’t portrayed as some inevitable result of the degeneration of Europeans in the tropics, or even of family madness, though that plays a part, but as a complex product of misunderstandings and cruelty. The writing is at once lush and simple, conveying the fragile and dangerous beauty of the Caribbean as easily as the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Best of all is how Rhys avoids the pitfalls of a parallel novel, i.e. knowing what happens to the madwoman in the attic, through how she chooses to write the last section.

I can really appreciate the additional materials that come packaged with my edition, including relevant pages from Jane Eyre, background information on the author, and some critical essays which were well worth skimming. Wide Sargasso Sea is truly revolutionary as a feminist and postcolonial response to the restraints against those who fall outside of the bounds of the dominant perspective. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
I could never get into this novel. It seemed disjointed. Motivations, causes and effects seemed uncertain, confusing and non-sensical. The prose was difficult and the voice shifted without warning. This book is a confirmation good literature can be above my intellect and understanding. ( )
  DonaldPowell | Feb 5, 2019 |
This book's reputation is well deserved in my opinion, the theme very clever, but most of all, the handling of the points of view was outstanding. ( )
  amaraki | Jan 2, 2019 |
Four stars from me because I couldn't stop reading when I started it. It was a really easy read and an interesting origin story for Bertha from Jane Eyre.

( )
  Mishale1 | Dec 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rhys, Jeanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashworth, AndreaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary 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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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 9 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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