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Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

by Jean Rhys

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,176206951 (3.56)716
The fortieth anniversary reissue of the best-selling "tour de force" (Walter Allen, New York Times Book Review).
  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 (18)
Oceans (3)

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» See also 716 mentions

English (199)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (205)
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
I was left with mixed feelings after reading. On the other hand the language is just marvelous and I like how the story is told from inside its main characters heads (partly). This creates a mystical atmosphere where things and happenings are only hinted at and nothing is certain. On the other hand this makes the story difficult to get into. Well, I like also that it wasn't an easy read and it left the feeling that there's more to it than I was able to understand - even after the second read. Fortunately there is a very good introduction explaining the themes and nuances of the book, otherwise I would be totally lost. I admired the scattered expressions of shattered identity, expectations from others and filling them even when it means sacrificing your own self, but without the introduction I was not able to put this into words. The same goes to the husband's role as colonialist. Somehow the whole book was so eerie that it was difficult to say anything concrete about it without the introduction. In that way the book made me feel a bit stupid.

I also feel a silly saying that the references to Jane Eyre are not so important - I think you can perfectly well read this and not know about Jane Eyre. Maybe you miss some things then, but honestly, I think a book should be able to explain itself and stand as an individual piece even if it is part of the cultural context and has inter-textual references.

My confusion of the book is probably seen in these random thoughts. ( )
  Lady_Lazarus | Jul 3, 2021 |
Even the exotic West Indian setting couldn’t save this novel for me. It begins well enough, with details about how the once-successful white Jamaican slave-holding Cosway family has fallen into serious decline after Britain's Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 and the death of the protagonist Antoinette’s father. Were it not for the loyalty of the family’s cook from Martinique, the Cosways would be even further up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Racial hostilities boil beneath the surface of this lush and sinister island.

The still-young Mrs. Cosway, a shadow of her former self, remarries. Unfortunately, as the resentment of the blacks continues to mount, Mason, her new husband, doesn’t heed the woman’s pleas to leave the island. Coulibri, the formerly idyllic estate is burnt down, Antoinette’s disabled younger brother dies of injuries sustained in the fire, and the girl’s mother descends into madness. Fast forward a few years and Antoinette is being married off by her step-brother, Richard Mason; a sizeable dowry is the bait. Enter (the never-named) Mr. Rochester, a naive but arrogant weakling, an unfavored son sent from England by his father to make a financial deal, which, unfortunately for all concerned, involves marriage to a sexually alluring if less-than-respectable young woman.

Okay. Fair enough so far. Then the novel takes a nose dive. A prequel to [book:Jane Eyre|10210], its prose, which always sounds more contemporary than authentic, now becomes increasingly vague, muddy, and unintelligible. And here we are again, right back in Jean Rhys territory, mired in the story of yet another beautiful woman who wants only to be loved but who’s tormented by the hatred by a cad. Rochester has been taken in by the rumours about the Cosway family, Antoinette’s promiscuity, and her incipient madness. Like clockwork, he predictably tells his wife he doesn’t love her. The now desperate heroine thinks obeah, voodoo magic, might help. It doesn’t; it cannot. The way it works in a Rhys novel is that rejection is inevitable and more or less emotionally fatal to the protagonist. There are no exceptions here. Antoinette goes mad.

Had I the interest—or had Rhys given me any reason to actually care for her characters, I suppose I could’ve tried to parse the tangled writing, whose style is of the stream-of-consciousness variety. To me it reflected the impaired thinking of a writer too long under alcohol’s influence.

I know almost everyone thinks this book is a masterpiece. All those years I heard about it and believed I was missing something! Well, now I’ve read it, and I don’t think I was. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Jun 21, 2021 |
prequel to Jane Eyre tells story of Rochester's wife
interesting twists
  nancynic | Jun 16, 2021 |
I found this novel entrancing and dreamlike. It's not often that a book read for class captures my attention like this, but I did not want to put it down. I'm glad this is the novel I chose to do a presentation on, because the interplay between imperialism, race, gender and class was brilliant. Even more brilliant were the characters, each of them flawed in their own way, but I could feel empathy for each of them, except for Rochester. This book was amazing. ( )
1 vote jmacccc | Apr 30, 2021 |
Wide Sargasso Sea was such a pleasant surprise. It was a bookclub choice from an internet forum I enjoy, and I picked it up without much knowledge of what it was about, other than the notorious Jane Eyre connection. Fan fiction is a much older concept than many of us had previously considered. But, calling it fanfiction is too narrow a definition.
Jean Rhys novella – it is quite a short book – wrestles with the human necessity of belonging, and the dire cost of not belonging. The luxuriant vegetation and climate of the Caribbean, the economic turmoil brought up by the abolition of slavery, and the distrust between European and Creole, white and black in a time ripe with revenge from past wrongs is all brought together as we follow “Antoinette/Bertha” from childhood to marriage, madness and death.
In a strange coincidence, I read “Bury the Chains”, by Adam Hochschild just a few weeks ago. In this account of the civil movement to abolish slavery in the British Empire, a few chapters are devoted to the atrocities perpetrated by slave owners in the Caribbean. And so, I read with even more interest about the relationship between former slave owners and the newly freed population.
Jean Rhys was born in the island of Dominica 60 years after the time when the events in the book take place, but her descriptions carry such depth and understanding that I can only wonder that distress must have permeated all interaction between the two communities for many generations to follow – how could it be any different after all?
But, this book is not only about the relationship dynamics within the islanders. It makes us question madness, cultural crash, colonization, machismo, sexuality and fear of sexuality, superstitions…
I did feel torn between 4 or 5 stars, because as beautiful as the prose is, the sequence of events left me feeling lost a couple of times. I had to turn back a few pages, wondering that I must had skipped a page or two, just to find out that the narration had “jumped”. But, I wonder, in a book where the characters are going mad, could the narrative be simple and linear? Also, the third part of the book – Bertha locked in an attic in England – seemed a bit contrived. It makes me speculate how the book would be like without the Jane Eyre connection. Would it had been a stronger book if we followed this character without the knowledge of where she was heading? At the end I decided on the 5 stars because its small shortcomings - if I can call them that - were greatly overshadowed by its strengths, and because it is a book that will remain with me for a long time…
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 199 (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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The fortieth anniversary reissue of the best-selling "tour de force" (Walter Allen, New York Times Book Review).

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Average: (3.56)
0.5 6
1 43
1.5 10
2 162
2.5 48
3 414
3.5 122
4 545
4.5 64
5 271

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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