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Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

by Jean Rhys

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,661224956 (3.56)755
Jean Rhys' late, literary masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea was inspired by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and is set in the lush, beguiling landscape of Jamaica in the 1830s. Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. After their marriage the rumours begin, poisoning her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven towards madness.… (more)
  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
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Philosofiction)
  4. 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)
  5. 20
    Grendel by John Gardner (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Classics retold to give voice to silent characters important to their plots.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 00
    A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen (lucy.depalma)
  9. 00
    Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Cecilturtle)
    Cecilturtle: colonialisme
  10. 22
    Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston (cammykitty)
  11. 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.
  12. 01
    Blessed Is the Fruit: A Novel by Robert Antoni (IsolaBlue)
  13. 02
    Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (GlebtheDancer)
    GlebtheDancer: Dark, foreboding, claustrophobic feel. Self-destruction of central character. Similar prose styles.
  14. 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
1960s (14)
Oceans (3)
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» See also 755 mentions

English (216)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (222)
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
Great. I bought this for fifty cents at a used book store. There were three copies but I didn't like the cover of the other two because it had some scene from a movie adaptation; some woman being ravished like you see on romance novels. I get home and start looking at it and there is a picture of someone's dog chewing on a bone glued to the inside of the cover! Why would somebody do this: take the time to paste a photograph of a dog eating a bone on the inside paperback cover of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea? I will just have to leave it there. I can't possibly remove it. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
Psychological drama, confusing at times. Beautiful evocation of scenery and smell.Dark, very dark. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
An interesting, postcolonial re-interpretation and reimagining of "Jane Eyre". ( )
  sazruth | Apr 5, 2022 |
A tale of race, power, and colonialism. The protagonist of the story, Antoinette, is caught between two worlds as she is the daughter of a white Creole. Things do not go well for her and she ends up in the attic at Mr. Rochester's home. This is the pre-cursor (although written afterward) to Jane Eyre. I think I liked it more because I knew it was connected to Jane Eyre, rather than liking the book on its own merit. The story was good enough, the writing was good ( )
  Tess_W | Mar 5, 2022 |
When I first read Jane Eyre as a pre-teen I accepted that the madwoman in the attic was indeed suffering from some sort of mental condition that made her a mental blank, scary but easily written off on the printed page, and that Jane's story was the romantic, sad story - more appealing to readers of my age. Later I was able to see Rochester for what he really was yet for years I clung to Jane's tale of a love story gone wrong. Rhys explodes this idea and reveals the barbaric tragedy, telling it from a different angle in this novel.

Rhys' prequel makes sense to anyone familiar with Jane Eyre but that familiarity is not necessary to appreciate it. Rhys never names Rochester or even Antoinette's husband's name, although he begins to call her 'Bertha', Bronte's name for Rochester's wife, the madwoman in the attic.

The novel begins in the lush tropical landscape of the Caribbean that gives a false sense of comfort. Antoinette's father died leaving nothing but debt and after a time living in dire poverty her mother married the wealthy Mason who arranged a marriage for Antoinette. Before long her new husband is sleeping with the servant and believing malicious reports from dubious sources about Antoinette. While Rhys shows some sympathy for the crumbling world of slave owners after emancipation, the dangers they face set the stage for the eventual atrocity.

While the story is memorable I can't say I enjoyed it. However, it makes Jane Eyre more conceivable given the Victorian mores of the time. However, that sad love story of my childhood is gone forever.

Andrea Ashworth's introduction calls this a "shimmering" novel illuminating the other side of the story, and goes on to explain how the text was created - with a lot of author obstruction - from scribbled fragments on scraps of paper stored in bags under the bed, a vision that is at odds with her description. As I read, I kept envisioning those dusty bags of paper. Evidently Rhys had some experience of mental distress. That the book was ever published is thanks to Diana Athill, literary editor for Andre Deutsch.

On reading more about Jean Rhys I found that when she finished school in England and refused to return to the Caribbean as her parents wished, she worked for a while as a chorus girl, adopting the name Vivienne. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Feb 27, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (86 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
Wilks, SueCover photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyndham, FrancisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.
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'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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Jean Rhys' late, literary masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea was inspired by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and is set in the lush, beguiling landscape of Jamaica in the 1830s. Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. After their marriage the rumours begin, poisoning her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven towards madness.

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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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