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Wide Sargasso Sea: A novel (Norton Paperback…
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Wide Sargasso Sea: A novel (Norton Paperback Fiction) (original 1966; edition 2010)

by Jean Rhys

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5,406162802 (3.57)568
Member:AndrewThomas
Title:Wide Sargasso Sea: A novel (Norton Paperback Fiction)
Authors:Jean Rhys
Info:W. W. Norton & Co. (2010), Edition: Re-issue, Paperback, 192 pages
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Work details

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)

  1. 251
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (aces)
  2. 61
    The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert (Imprinted)
  3. 30
    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. 21
    Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston (cammykitty)
  5. 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)
  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. 00
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Philosofiction)
  8. 00
    Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Cecilturtle)
    Cecilturtle: colonialisme
  9. 01
    Blessed Is the Fruit: A Novel by Robert Antoni (IsolaBlue)
  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. 02
    Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (GlebtheDancer)
    GlebtheDancer: Dark, foreboding, claustrophobic feel. Self-destruction of central character. Similar prose styles.
  12. 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 568 mentions

English (156)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (161)
Showing 1-5 of 156 (next | show all)
Firstly just to mention I didn't love this annotated edition - felt like a lot of the annotations were obvious or unnecessary so didn't add to the book.

The book itself is great though, very short and perfectly formed. It's very intense and claustrophobic, the heat and oppressive atmosphere hangs over it. It is dreamlike and shifting and sometimes hard to know what is real. The connection to Jane Eyre is done with a light touch, it's not necessary to have read that first. ( )
  AlisonSakai | May 11, 2016 |
My first read for 2016, and ohemgee, what a stunner.

This brief but sumptuous novel -- originally published in 1966, but reissued this year by Norton with a lovely introduction from Edwidge Danticat -- imagines the life of Bertha Mason, the "madwoman" from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

Shifting viewpoints between Antoinette, as she prefers to be called, and a young Englishman we assume to be Rochester, we see a vivacious young woman pinned down by society, powerless and frustrated, pushed to her emotional limits. Is she mad? Rhys suggests she isn't, but her husband -- perhaps a little mad himself -- feels otherwise, and he has the power to punish her and declare her such.

I have to confess that Jane Eyre is not one of my favorites books, so I was predisposed to like Antoinette and hate Rochester. Yet Rhys managed to make Rochester sympathetic, in a way: he's a young man who has to marry for money, and worse, a "Creole" rather than a proper Englishwoman. For a moment, he's even taken with Antoinette but his conservative mores and twisted attitudes about sex and desire transmute his interest into disgust.

Worse, the Caribbean landscape -- hot, wet, and wild -- seems to give Antoinette strength, which repels him:

I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it. (p156)
This is a quick read -- about 170ish pages -- but it invites deep lingering and re-reading (I ended up reading it for a second time a few nights after finishing!). Rhys' writing, as seen above, is lush and evocative, and she can, in a handful of words, paint a scene vividly.

I was strongly reminded of stories like "The Yellow Wallpaper" -- could women's madness be the way men and society cage them and tell them they're mad? -- and while I felt fury toward Rochester, I didn't loathe him as I anticipated. I felt terrible for them both, these passionate people who couldn't connect and were oppressed, in different ways, by society. I was also struck by a similarity to Rebecca, especially with women in both books dreaming of returning to their beloved burned estates.

This edition has a lovely introduction by Edwidge Danticat which reads like an argument for why #WeNeedDiverseBooks. It's a love letter to a story about oppression, colonialism, and solidarity, and might be one of my most favorite introductions to a classic novel ever.

By accident, 2016 might shape up to be my year of (inspired by) Jane Eyre, in a fashion. In my queue for this year was this book; Catherine Lowell's novel about a Bronte descendant, The Madwoman Upstairs; Lyndsay Faye's Jane Steele, a murderous retelling, of sorts; last year's Re Jane;  the short story collection Reader, I Married Him; and a poetry collection, The Jane and Bertha in Me. I ought to just put Jane Eyre in as a reread and see if my feelings for it change!

A must read -- not just for fans of Jane Eyre -- but for anyone who enjoys feminist literature, or novels fraught with unspoken sentiments and explosive desires. ( )
  unabridgedchick | Mar 31, 2016 |
A real gem of a book. Exquisitely written, with a not always clear plot that keeps a reader paying attention to every syllable. ( )
  charlie68 | Mar 15, 2016 |
The prequel to Jane Eyre, this novel spins the tale of Rochester's first wife, Antoinette (Bertha) Mason. The book is told first from her perspective and then from his and is a fascinating story that leaves one wondering, was she really mad? ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
This is the part where I have to admit that I've never read Jane Eyre.

I did, however see the 1993 'Wide Sargasso Sea' film, which I liked very much, although the title confused me rather a lot, as no sea is really featured in the story. I thought reading the book would clear that up. It didn't. The book is much, much less sexy than the film.

I picked the book up because I was visiting Dominica, where it is set. This may or may not have been wise. While it was very interesting to see the depictions of the island, due to the historical time period and the theme of the story it's not really a very favorable depiction. Well, nothing in the book is particularly positive.

When slavery is ended on Jamaica, many black citizens rise up against their former masters, showing a hostility they previously had to suppress. The young woman Antoinette, a white heiress, is shaken by this upheaval. When she has the opportunity to marry a handsome Englishman, she jumps at the opportunity, and travels with him to her childhood home on Dominica.

However, her marriage is quickly revealed to be a mistake. Her husband primarily married her for her money. When poison-pen letters further influence him against her, with tales of madness in her family, his uncaring turns to manipulative cruelty. If Antoinette wasn't mentally unstable to start with (a definite question) she unquestionably becomes so, as her husband steals even her identity, and she has nowhere to turn...

It's a very strong, powerful novel - but not a particularly pleasant one. It reminded me a bit of Kate Chopin's 'The Awakening' in themes, and some details. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 156 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean Rhysprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashworth, AndreaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyndham, FrancisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.
Quotations
'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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 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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