Wide Sargasso Sea also alters the historical setting of Jane Eyre by pushing the chronology up almost thirty years later in order to take advantage of another foundational moment in Jamaican history, the abolition of slavery in Setting the novel during this tumultuous period enables Rhys to situate the figure of the white Creole woman in the complex of shifting race relations under British colonial rule.
No wonder, then, that Wide Sargasso Sea isn't just a fascinating and entertaining story, but a work that has profoundly impacted the way that readers approach the "great books" of Western literature. The novel challenges us to read these texts critically for the untold stories of characters who are marginalized because they don't fit into the dominant paradigm of what a hero or heroine ought to be. Of course — many people do. The beauty of Wide Sargasso Sea is that it lets you have it both ways. Welcome to the world of Wide Sargasso Sea , with its blend of twisted romance and island mystery, occult magic and literary self-reference.
Let's start with Lost. An island where unexplained things happen, where conventional notions of space and time are turned inside out, where you're constantly threatened by "Others" whose intentions remain obscure, where there are constant allusions to literature and philosophy — sounds a lot like Rhys's Caribbean, doesn't it? Judging by all the prequels out there, you could say that the pre-history of a story can be just as compelling as the story itself.
Be it Hannibal Lecter or Indiana Jones , Wolverine , or Yoda , prequels offer the tempting possibility of understanding how a fascinating character works. As if the new beginning had skewed and jarred what followed. To my mind, the editor should have gone further and told her to now write the entire novel from Antoinette's point of view. The husband narrative, never entirely convincing - what baddie portrays himself as a baddie? But he's a reliable narrator, too reliable, there essentially to establish facts. It struck me as a laziness in Rhys that, having changed the beginning, she left what follows untouched.
And all the best bits of the husband's narrative are when he sounds exactly like Antoinette. That Rhys eventually dumps him for part three and returns to Antoinette does make you wonder why he was ever there in the first place. She also very clumsily adds a brief third voice in part three which confirmed to me that she gave far more thought to crafting her sentences than she did to structure. It would have demanded a more refined artistry but my feeling was Rhys could have and should have channelled all the information we learn through the husband through Antoinette.
What redeems the architectural flaws is how well Rhys writes and how much of interest she has to say about her subject matter. It's sad if this, as the cover proclaims, is her masterpiece because my feeling is she was more than capable of writing a better novel. The average rating for this is 3. And I haven't read this three times as this site declares.
But I have now read it. Jane Eyre will follow soon. View all 31 comments. Elyse Walters Violet Thank God I have read Ja Violet Hey certainly nowhere to Kevin for help if I get stuck.
The book that changed Jane Eyre forever
Lol Thanks Thank you!!! Elyse Walters Oops Just trying to say I certainly know where to go, if I need Oops Welcome to modern Technology glitches. Every once in a while, I stop to think about the neglected characters in various novels who exist only as plot devices. What are their stories? If you saw the novel through their eyes, what would it be like?
Therefore, ever since I heard the premise of Jean Rhys's novel, I was eager to read it. Bertha, Mr. Rochester's first wife, must have had a life other than as the "madwoman in the attic". I do not know if Charlotte Bronte ever thought about it, but Ms. Rhys obviously did, and this compellingl Every once in a while, I stop to think about the neglected characters in various novels who exist only as plot devices. Rhys obviously did, and this compellingly readable novel is the product. The language is beautifully evocative. I could see the West Indies, even though I have never been there.
I could see, hear and smell the tropical countryside very much like my homeland , at once breathtakingly beautiful, compellingly seductive and strangely frightening-like Antoinette. Especially to the eyes of an Englishman whose green meadows and rolling fields hold no secrets. Yes, the countryside is beautiful It may suddenly cloud over and start to rain, and you may find yourself in the burnt-out ruins of a country house populated only by ghosts of dead slaves and murdered slave-owners.
The characterisation is perfect. Rhys draws each character, including the minor ones, with a few deft brush strokes. Rochester, for all his faults, comes across as sympathetic, a victim of his times and society: the "evils" he does are part of his social makeup. And Antoinette is a masterpiece-inseparable from the landscape she inhabits. As we progress through the novel and she slips more and more into madness, the narrative also matches her mental state. In fact, the third part is downright creepy. However, I am still plagued by a niggling doubt Oh well View all 16 comments.
An epic romance made meek, singular, aromatic, ethereal, surreal. A fresh little nugget of splendor, of much-needed prose perfection. This is gothic romance at its absolute height. It's perhaps the best piece of fan-fiction ever. But it takes a life of its own Not short of magical, it's baffling how truly impactful these short novels really are. Rhys gives us so much by giving us the absolute least. Leaving the reader naturally to ask for more. There are specks of Graham Greene the impeccable here; as well as Toni Morrison the visionary -- SO the best of the best in the best.
View 1 comment. I think the idea of one author piggy-backing, uninvited, on the characters and plot of another, is decidedly dodgy. With such well-known books, I don't think it's a spoiler to say this imagines the story of the mad first wife in Rochester's attic: from her childhood in Jamaica, through to her marriage to I think the idea of one author piggy-backing, uninvited, on the characters and plot of another, is decidedly dodgy. With such well-known books, I don't think it's a spoiler to say this imagines the story of the mad first wife in Rochester's attic: from her childhood in Jamaica, through to her marriage to Rochester, and a final epilogue that ties the two novels together, set in her attic at Thorfield.
She travels from privilege to poverty and then to something else altogether. Colour in ever sense , and its contrasts and consequences, is at the heart of the novel, such as when "marooned" is used as a literal description and a metaphor, when Antoinette is looking at her mother. The lush and multitudinous colours of the Carribean ooze from almost every page see quotes at the end , but it's the colour of people that is more problematic.
Antoinette is mixed-race, but mostly accepted as white. Except that "accepted" isn't really true. When her widowed mother marries Mr Mason "we ate English food now" , she notices how English he is, how un-English her mother is, and is less sure about herself. A black person describes her as a "white cockroach" and the English think of her as a "white nigger", but the blacks say that a "black nigger is better than white nigger". She muses, "I often wonder who I am and where is my country and where do I belong".
Colour determined the balance of power in colonies like Jamaica. Freeing the slaves changed that, but didn't entirely reverse it. With the story set at this turning point, it's not only Antoinette who is questioning her identity and her place in life, and to some extent, her personal change of circumstances, and Rochester's role in that, echo those of colonial people in general.
The rich colours sometimes have an unreality about them, and that seems prescient when dreams and drugs appear to muddle reality and unreality "Only the magic and the dream are true — all the rest's a lie. But they are transient, I think. What of madness? I was expecting this book to be about what madness means, and the use and abuse of the label especially by men, about women , and perhaps it is. Nevertheless, the overwhelming theme for me was colour.
Later Rochester has a turn, and they swap a couple more times. In narration and dialogue, it wasn't always immediately clear who was talking. Not a huge problem, but a definite irritation. In fact, Rochester's final passage is more muddled and rambling than any of Antoinette's. Given this, and the way Rochester was tricked into the marriage stated in Jane Eyre, but given detail here and some of what happens in this book view spoiler [rumours and lies to turn him against his wife, black magic, potions hide spoiler ] , one has to ask whether he is as much of a victim as Antoinette is.
Apart from the characters though Rochester is never named , there are echoes of what is to come, perhaps designed to reinforce local ideas of of the power of obeah magic : view spoiler [arson causes the family to flee their home; her mother apparently goes mad from shock and grief ; manic laughter; nightmares; a nearly cancelled wedding hide spoiler ]. The colour red is strong in both, in the literal sense furnishings, flowers, fabrics, sky etc , and perhaps as a foreboding of fire of temper and of flames.
A more Biblical omen comes from several mentions of a cock crowing: just before the wedding; when collecting view spoiler [a black-magic potion hide spoiler ] "That is for betrayal, but who is the traitor? Daniel claims to be one of many illegitimate half-siblings of Antoinette. Her white father was well-known for his philandering ways with local women, but the authenticity of Daniel's personal claim is disputed. Baptiste tells Rochester that Daniel is "a very superior man, always reading the Bible" and, a few sentences later, "Daniel is a bad man and he will come here and make trouble".
Is this poor editing, or deliberate and significant? In his house, there is a framed text reading "Vengeance is mine" and Daniel is jealous of Sandi the favoured illegitimate son, who passes as white, and is wealthy. His feelings about Antoinette are less clear, and his motives for telling Rochester about her mother's madness and other gossip are also uncertain: does he want to protect Antoinette in some way, is he hoping Rochester will be so incensed that he will wreak revenge on the Masons and maybe gratitude on Daniel and why, at the end of the scene, view spoiler [ does he ask Rochester for hush money, when what he's said is apparently common knowledge?
Or maybe I'm reading too much into a minor scene?
Summary of Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Too much blue, too much purple, too much green. The flowers too red, the mountains too high, the hills too near. And it kept its secret I want what it hides. But always music, a music I had never heard before. 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. View all 41 comments. Elyse Walters Thank you Cecily!
I want to read another Jane Rhys book I enjoyed your review- now to forget it Thanks again!! Cecily Elyse wrote: "Thank you Cecily! I'm sorry it's so exp Elyse wrote: "Thank you Cecily! I'm sorry it's so expensive where you are. I guess it's not quite old enough to be out of copyright, and maybe you'd prefer audio anyway. But soon after their marriage, rumors of madness in her family poison his mind against her.
He forces Antoinette to conform to his He forces Antoinette to conform to his rigid Victorian ideals. Shelves: read-in Fear of the fallen myth syndrome is what has prevented me from reading this book for years. You have to understand, Jane Eyre was my first "adult" novel. I was still a tomboy who had only read Enid Blyton's "The Secret Seven" when one scorching summer day the torn spine of a seemingly ancient book caught my attention among a few volumes sitting on my Godmother's shelves.
I remember that summer as one of the best of my life, and while Jane became my personal heroine and I developed a fervent crus Fear of the fallen myth syndrome is what has prevented me from reading this book for years. I remember that summer as one of the best of my life, and while Jane became my personal heroine and I developed a fervent crush on Mr. Rochester, I discovered an awkward but exhilarating female awareness completely foreign to me. Call me nostalgic, but I didn't want to lose that simple and uncomplicated feelings from my childhood.
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I should have known better. Doomed Bertha, from fire you come, consumed in fire you will go. Antoinette Cosway is the scapegoat of a decadent, expatriate and exploited society. She neither belongs with the "whites" nor the "niggers". She is a white cockroach , a white nigger who carries the heavy burden of her slave-owner ancestors during the last remains of the British and French Colonialism in the Caribbean Islands. A neglected child, she blossoms in isolated existence, nurturing a strange communion with the exotic, humid landscape of her home in Coulibri.
Prejudice and superstition ignite her dormant sinister tendencies when her mother's house is set on fire by the locals, killing his half-witted brother Pierre and leaving Mr. Mason, her mother's second husband, as her sole protector. A young woman who shies from light and longs for the cool shadows of a convent where she recovers from shock. Her beauty thrives attuned to the hostile and oppressing tropical surroundings. One should never leave lonely alone.
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Rochester , with her sad, dark alien eyes. And her red dress, as blinding as furious flames but in complete harmony with the too much red flowers , closes in on her young husband, choking him, disorienting him. Impressionable Edward Fairfax Rochester, the typical Victorian gentleman, overwhelmed with the intensity of these somber, bizarre, damp landscapes with its menacing and reproachful people, can't avoid feeling equally appalled and attracted to his new wife.
His cold and possessive masculinity keeps him from acting far from virtuously with his young wife, pressing instead of soothing, demanding instead of empathizing, presumptuous instead of trusting. Clash of cultures, class and race relations, the suffocating subconscious of unknown misdeeds Deranged woman? Or simply a collateral undesired effect of the oppression of colonialism and patriarchal tradition, embodied of course, in Mr. Jean Rhys masters the helplessly biased, non reliable, first person narrative form, alternating the voices of both Antoinette and Edward, smothering the reader with her misleading lush tone, hypnotizing him with her exquisite and deeply disturbing style, which builds up imperceptibly towards a suffocating and unavoidable culmination.
Antoinette says It is always too late for truth. Such an elusive word. We all seek truth. But which truth? I have found my own truth, better said, I have shaken hands with my long time found but not avowed truth. A truth I already perceived in Mr. Rochester's guilt, in his deceitful ways, in his rough domineering character. He never loved Antoinette, Bertha as he called her in a futile attempt to change her, for she was much of a wild spirit, caught alight, impossible to cage. She didn't have a place in this world, so Mr. Rochester forced her to create her own. And curiously, this new found truth does nothing but enhance my feelings for my childhood hero, this wounded rogue, shinning with all his flaws, who comes more alive today than ever.
Rhys' novel stands on its own and it's her subtle and haunting voice that allows us to listen to those who never dared to speak before. I have listened and understood. Have you? 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. View all 40 comments. My eyes are a little teary.. Sooo beautiful! Jul 02, AM. I am so glad that you enjoyed this discussion thread I don't think I really understood this book at first, but after I finished it, I went looking around online for more info about it and it clicked. This book is a prequel to Jane Eyre to be read after you read Jane Eyre.
Reading it before you read Jane Eyre will probably spoil some of it for you. Also, as a stand alone book without referrence to Jane Eyre, I don't think it is a particularly interesting book. The story for me was a bit flat. I didn't fully understand the motivation of the character I don't think I really understood this book at first, but after I finished it, I went looking around online for more info about it and it clicked. I didn't fully understand the motivation of the characters. This is a case of having to know a bit of the background of the world at the time the book was released to really get it.
There are a lot of themes around the treatment of women, race, slavery, imperialism, etc. I know I didn't at first thanks, Wikipedia! The story just was there. View all 11 comments. Using a pencil instead of pen for the ink spills over while I shake. Influence of cheap wine. Sometimes I get out of control, freaky. My neighbors think I am mad. What do they know of madness? Who knows of madness?
People only see what is there before their eyes.
SparkNotes: Wide Sargasso Sea
Who bothers to think how the despair creeps inside, shutting out the doors to the World permanently? I look at the copy of Jane Eyre kept on the table by my side. I fill with rage. No one tho Oct. No one thought of you. No emotion or thoughts expressed, not even fear. No one thought you had a soul too; a heart that once throbbed to the love of a man. Or that you loved to sing and dance, perhaps. Or that you had a mother, consumed by a raging fire of the memory of your dead brother.
That you tried to keep sane in a mad-mad world filled with people who were no better. Why did no one think of you, Bertha? No, not Bertha. It is how they have known you, till now. Only a madwoman in the attic. I will call you Antoinette, a name your mother may have given you, with love, when you were born. The other side. View all 35 comments. Anytime a writer takes on the idea of writing or rewriting another writers story or characters, they are treading on delicate, even sacred ground.
Especially in this instance, you are talking about an iconic work, a masterpiece, the gold standard of classic English literature, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. But somehow Jean Rhys pulls it off without too much damage to the original work, and let's face it, Bertha needed to have her story told. Bertha's real name is Antoinette Cosway, and this is Anytime a writer takes on the idea of writing or rewriting another writers story or characters, they are treading on delicate, even sacred ground.
Bertha's real name is Antoinette Cosway, and this is her story. A passionate Creole woman who finds herself married to an Englishman, decamped from her Caribbean home to the English countryside, and eventually locked away in the attic of an old English manor and proclaimed insane by her husband. Jean Rhys is an interesting person in her own right. I would think her biography would make for good reading. Unsuccessful most of her life, Wide Sargasso Sea came late in her career, "too late to make a difference" she would say.
I would rather be happy than write". View all 3 comments. In my way, not in hers. In sunlight, in shadow, by moonlight, by candlelight. In the long afternoons when the house was empty. Only the sun was there to keep us company. We shut him out. And why not? Very soon she was as eager for what's called loving as I was - more lost and drowned afterwards. This book encapsulates the melancholy of evolving times and evolving minds and it measures human decency.
Just when one th "I watched her die many times. Just when one thinks there is some progression towards human decency, money stills morality. And I'm not just alluding to American politics, I'm also referring to Antoinette, the main character who sees her mother taunted and abused because of her mental disorder, only to watch while the same thing happens to her years later.
The common denominators? An enviable house and land, skin color, inherited money from a stepfather even if she was dirt poor before , black nationalistic pride that determines she is a white minority who must be excavated, despondency of blue-collar employees, and so on. Go, her black housekeeper of many years warns her, take your money and leave your husband and he'll be a poor man.
But she doesn't listen to her, something about misplaced trust. What's with the complacency and lack of togetherness that drowns women in deeper mire? Do something. It's coincidental that I read this after reading Of Human Bondage , but after watching recent news with tears in my eyes as I had to once again doubt basic human decency, I thought how it must have been fate that linked me with these two works that illustrate life and the oddities of humans and their complexities.
I hated the sunsets of whatever color, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. It's hard to sympathize with the Cosways who once owned the slaves who birthed those harassing them, but it is not too difficult to empathize with Antoinette who is a child and innocent partaker to the s Jamaican society wanting to erase the brutality of human ownership and colonization.
The mood of this book is sharpened through terse, yet visceral prose that proceed in a fragmentary haphazard and hallucinatory manner, in order to elucidate the renderings of psychological upheaval. It is an underscoring of generations who refuse to break the pattern of suffering. Antoinette wants to leave, just like her mother before her, and yet she doesn't until she is forced to. She has money, unlike her mother before her, and yet she, a white woman, allows herself to become a slave to the white men around her: her half-brother who turns over her wealth to his best friend, and a husband who uses her and cares nothing for her well-being.
In the end, Antoinette is no different than those of Creole descent around her who for years, fought to gain back their basic human rights, including the right to individualism. Yes, there is something brutal, yet self-actualizing about watching history repeat itself. As for my confused impressions they will never be written. There are blanks in my mind that cannot be filled up. View all 17 comments. Recommended to Jenn ifer by: I would never have found Jean if not for Mariel. Shelves: my-reviews-that-dont-suck , xx , summer-of-women , read-in As many of you who read my reviews are aware, I had devoted this summer to exclusively reading female writers, as my reading list was woefully lacking in books written by the fairer sex.
Jean Rhys! I feel I owe a debt to the original publishers of Wide Sargasso Sea because if not for its publication her exceptional early work As many of you who read my reviews are aware, I had devoted this summer to exclusively reading female writers, as my reading list was woefully lacking in books written by the fairer sex. I feel I owe a debt to the original publishers of Wide Sargasso Sea because if not for its publication her exceptional early work may have remained for ever out of print and I may never have been introduced to Jean. The Jean of Good Morning, Midnight. The Jean of After Leaving Mr.
She is my soul mate if I believed in that sort of thing. We are kindred spirits. They met with some critical acclaim, but widespread readership was not to be had. So with that, Jean vanished from the literary scene and spent the next twenty years living in relative obscurity. I like the idea behind it. It was all too heavy handed; it lacked the subtlety of her earlier work. He leaves something out, allowing the listener to fill in the blanks. Wanting to know the secrets, we listen to that song again and again.
That might not make sense yet, but maybe it will after you listen to the Hansard song. Stop punching me in the stomach, Glen, I get the point already. It pains me to write this review. I want Nilsson! Thankfully, I saved Quartet for last. It is the taste of mediocrity. But as I said in the beginning, without WSS , Jean would have disappeared into obscurity and who knows if her early body of work would have ever again seen the light of day.
View all 91 comments. Jun 25, Kevin Ansbro rated it really liked it Shelves: human-emotions , island-life , gritty-realism , human-cruelty , immorality. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere. Jean Rhys was a post-colonial writer, who lived in the Caribbean and identified with the plight of former plantation slaves for whom emancipation didn't offer the freedom it promised. This, an innovative sequel to Jane Eyre , is a raw depiction of life in the steamy underbelly of post-colonial Jamaica.
At times an astonishing read, Rhys gives voice to the subjugated "Reading makes immigrants of us all. At times an astonishing read, Rhys gives voice to the subjugated silent minority, whilst beautifully describing the hi-def tapestry of the Caribbean scenery. View all 34 comments. A fan of Jane Eyre since I first read it in ninth grade and a fan of the movie version of Wide Sargasso Sea , I greatly looked forward to reading this book. John Rentoul. Chuka Ummuna.
by Jean Rhys
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