Wide Sargasso Sea : Student Edition Paperback
by Jean Rhys
Her grand attempt to tell what she felt was the story of Jane Eyre's 'madwoman in the attic', Bertha Rochester, Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea is edited with an introduction and notes by Angela Smith in Penguin Classics. Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality.
After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her.
Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel's heroine.
This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys's brief, beautiful masterpiece. Jean Rhys (1894-1979) was born in Dominica. Coming to England aged 16, she drifted into various jobs before moving to Paris, where she began writing and was 'discovered' by Ford Madox Ford.
Her novels, often portraying women as underdogs out to exploit their sexualities, were ahead of their time and only modestly successful. From 1939 (when Good Morning, Midnight was written) onwards she lived reclusively, and was largely forgotten when she made a sensational comeback with her account of Jane Eyre's Bertha Rochester, Wide Sargasso Sea, in 1966. If you enjoyed Wide Sargasso Sea, you might like Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, also available in Penguin Classics. 'She took one of the works of genius of the nineteenth century and turned it inside-out to create one of the works of genius of the twentieth century' Michele Roberts, The Times
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 192 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 29/01/2000
- Category: Literary studies: from c 1900 -
- ISBN: 9780141182858
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by herschelian
Rhys takes the character of Mrs Rochester - the mad woman in the attic - from Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' and by discribing her childhood and upbringing in 1830s Jamaica, her marriage to Rochester and its failure, shows her slide towards maddness. A marvellous book. I read it as a teenager and completely empathised with Antoinette, as a consequence I was never able to look kindly on Jane Eyre or Rochester again.
Review by barnaby
A lush and rich "prequel" to Charlotte Bronte's classic Jane Eyre. This book tells the story of the mad woman in the attic. She is married to a handsom young man (Rochester) but something is spreading unease. A very well written short novel, almost a novella, but definitely not to be ignored.
Review by isabelx
Jean Rhys had a Creole mother and was brought up on the Caribbean island of Dominica before moving to London when she was sixteen, so I think that she really understood Antoinette and her distress at leaving her tropical island for cold, dark Thornfield.A wonderful book, but it's always sad to read a story that you know is going to end so badly.
Review by SandDune
75. Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys ***1/2A prequel (of sorts) to Jane Eyre giving the story of the first Mrs Rochester. A very brief novel this one, more a novella really, which is very evocative of the tropical Caribbean setting, and is beautifully written.On the island of Jamaica shortly after the abolition of slavery, the young Antoinette Cosway lives on the almost derelict but beautiful Coulibri Estate, with her widowed mother Annette and a physically and mentally disabled younger brother. As a Creole from the French island of Martinique Annette Cosway is an outsider in Jamaican society, and with her husband having drunk himself to death leaving nothing but debts, the family is virtually destitute. Annette's marriage to the rich Mr Mason from England means that financial worries are resolved but it is an uneasy compromise. Tensions between black and white run high but hewill not listen to her warnings that as the widow of a former slave-owner it is dangerous for her to stay at Coulibri, and in a period of unrest the house is burnt forcing the inhabitants to flee. When Antoinette's younger brother receives injuries that lead to his death her mother loses her mind, and blaming her husband for her son's death, tries to kill him. Jump forward several years and Antoinette Crosby Mason marries the man that her family have arranged for her. Never named, this is the Mr Rochester of Jane Eyre fame and from the beginning of their marriage he starts to hear rumours about infidelity and madness. But can the rumours be trusted? With the story told from the perspective of both Antoinette and her husband in turn it is possible to understand and sympathise to a certain extent with the feelings of both parties. But as Antoinette must become the quintessential 'madwoman in the attic' of Jane Eyre, the tragic outcome is never in doubt, and the actions of both parties take them along the road that leads to its inevitable conclusion.I would have enjoyed this much more had I not read it so soon after reading Jane Eyre. Rather than being a straightforward prequel, in Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys takes the characters from Jane Eyre and works them into a very different sort of book, and I had the details of Jane Eyre far too firmly ensconced in my head to allow me to appreciate it as much as I should. Probably best read as a stand-alone novel with a memory of Jane Eyre read ten or twenty years ago in the background. I may well read it again in a year or two's time and may well give it a higher rating when I do. But a word of warning: if Mr Rochester is your favourite ever romantic hero, probably best to give it a miss!