Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea


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This “tour de force” (New York Times Book Review) celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

A new introduction by the award-winning Edwidge Danticat, author most recently of Claire of the Sea Light, expresses the enduring importance of this work. Drawing on her own Caribbean background, she illuminates the setting’s impact on Rhys and her astonishing work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393352566
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/25/2016
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 24,436
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jean Rhys (1890–1979) is the author of Good Morning,
Midnight; Voyage in the Dark; After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie;
Quartet; and The Collected Short Stories.

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Wide Sargasso Sea 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
mthelibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The change in narrators between sections is confusing, but Part 3 made me think I should go back to the beginning and start it again. I may do so in the future, but not right now.
amerynth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jean Rhys's "Wide Sargasso Sea" is simply fascinating. In a novel permeated by colonialism, sexuality and madness, she tells the story of Antoinette (also known as Bertha Mason) who has the misfortune to become Mr. Rochester's first wife (yes, the Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." In doing so, she transforms Bertha from just a madwoman in the attic to complex and richly described character whose descent into insanity is caused (in part) by the belief she would become insane eventually.It's a great idea for a novel and is helped along by Rhys' ability to fill the book with the rhythm of the Caribbean in a post-Emancipation Jamaica. The characters are incredibly interesting, making the book very compelling."Jane Eyre" is probably my most read book -- I read it over and over in my junior high and high school years. I don't think "Wide Sargasso Sea" is essential reading for people who loved "Jane Eyre" -- it didn't really add much to my thoughts about the book, except that it was fun to see how someone imagined Mr. Rochester's much hinted at past really played out. However, I think "Wide Sargasso Sea" stands on its own as a well written and entertaining novel.
bookwoman247 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book provide's the background story of Brontë's famous mad woman in the attic from Jane Eyre.I felt that it was excellent as a stand-alone book, but, being a huge fan of Jane Eyre I really didn't feel much of a connection. The character of Edward Rochester, especially, felt like an entirely different character from the original. There were other discrepencies as well, although they are harder to pinpoint.Setting aside the Jane Eyre connection, this was a strong, powerful book - dark, ominous, threatening, intense. A chaotic world where evil is ubiquitous, and often wears a smile. These were the forces that, in the end, caused the madness that, afflicted Antoinette/Bertha Mason, and the reader is made to feel them. It is a primal read, one that grabs the reader, and one that you feel in your gut. The short length just saves it from bding too dark and difficult to read.No mistake, there is a dark kind of beauty to the work, as well. I would definitely recommend this book for it's outstanding, powerful, unique writing, and for anyone who is interested in exploring the deeper shadows of the human soul.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Blech. This is the most hackneyed idea. And something about this book just really, really bothers me. It makes me angry. I hate, hate, hate literary "revisitings." They make me want to vomit. Think up your own idea for god's sake.
fieldnotes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is always a risky thing to create a narrative voice far below your own intelligence level. I find that authors less skillful than, say, Faulkner, end up producing poor quality, simple prose without managing to evoke youthfulness or naivety. The first portion of "Wide Sargasso Sea", suffers from the young teenage voice of Antoinette. I find it easy to scoff at passages like, "I woke next morning knowing that nothing would be the same. It would change and go on changing" or "I prayed for a long time to be dead. Then remembered that this was a sin. It's presumption or despair, I forget which, but a mortal sin. So I prayed for a long time about that too, but the thought came, so many things are sins, why? Another sin, to think that." What's wrong with those passages (aside from their over-convenient simplifications)? They are sandwiched between passages like, "if we were never envious, they never seemed vain. Helene and Germain, a little disdainful, aloof perhaps, but Louise, not even that." and "This remark is made in a casual and perfunctory voice and she slides on to order and chastity, that flawless crystal that, once broken, can never be mended." It's unreasonable to expect readers to receive these four utterances as if they all occurred naturally to the same teenage girl. Narrative consistency matters.The second part of the book is stronger and almost convinced me to forgive the first part of the novel (which had altogether lost my sympathy) on the basis of the strong contrast set up between them. We are all prepared to notice the shortcomings of Mr. Rochester's perspective. Rhys does not have to be terribly overt about his jealousy, his pride, his fear and his ignorance; these are clear to the reader because of how Mr. Rochester narrates and what he chooses to focus on. The second part is strong and entertaining and the show-down between Christophine (the book's most memorable character) and Mr. Rochester is very well done. While the Iago-like, lurking half-brother of Antoinette with his obnoxious letters, bribery and intrigue was a bit tedious and overdone, the second part of "Wide Sargasso Sea" still commands and rewards attention.For better or for worse, I have not read "Jane Eyre"; so, the interplay between "Wide Sargasso Sea" and Bronte's novel is completely lost on me. As a result, I have no reason to forgive or accept the disappointing and forced third and final "part" of the novel. To make a novel so dependent on its relationship to another novel is also, somewhat of a risky decision. If I ever get around to "Jane Eyre", I may come back and give this review a second look. But, for now, I wouldn't recommend this particular take on wealthy-white-person-undone-by-tropics to anyone who is not a junky of this particular sub-genre.
rizeandshine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book, I was looking forward to delving into the life and mind of Jane Eyre's crazed Bertha. However, I found much of the story disjointed and a bit difficult to follow. Since the first part of the story was told from Bertha's (Antoinette's) point of view, I assumed this was just the disjointed voice of a mentally unstable narrator. As the story progresses and the voice of the narrator is changed, I realized that the incoherence was merely the author's writing. Also, in providing the character of Bertha with a background and some humanity (even still, I never felt very attached to her character), I think Ms. Rhys also changed and detracted from Mr. Rochester as presented by Charlotte Bronte. Had his character been minor or less defined in the first novel this may have worked, but I was not able to reconcile the Mr. Rochester of the West Indies with the master of Thornfield and Jane Eyre's true love.
Scriberpunk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wide Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys¿ `prequel¿ to Charlotte Bronte¿s Jane Eyre. In Jane Eyre Mr Rochester has returned home from Jamaica with a mad wife in tow and locked her up in the attic. In Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys imagines how he helped drive her mad whilst they lived in the Caribbean. I never realised that Creole originally meant people born and raised in one place/country/continent but with ancestry in another. I thought it was a cooking style. That¿s a joke. Sort of. Antoinette, the first Mrs. Rochester, is Creole in that she is white, of English heritage, but born and raised in the Caribbean. The book is about her feeling of not belonging and her confused sense of identity, a point driven home by Rhys calling her by a number of different names during the story. Antoinette, Annette, Marionette; her husband even calls her Bertha, which is a touch jarring and unexplained though it turns out that this is a next story plot device in it's Mrs Rochester¿s name in Jane Eyre. Mr Rochester on the other hand is never actually named in the book, even though he shares narrating duties with Antoinette. There¿s quite a lot of this juxtaposition of opposites going on. The title is meant to demonstrate the gap between the old world and the new and show how distant Rochester and Antoinette become. Very deep.It¿s good. And it¿s short. But I may never forgive it because it has now got me reading Jane Eyre.
songfish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Felt like an exercise rather than a novel. Much to analyse, but not much to enjoy.
janiereader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though this book was originally written in 1966 I had never heard of it. Being a lover of Bronte's Jane Eyre I was told by a collegue to give it a try. I was excited at the prospect of reading it, and thought what a good premise it was. The mad woman in the attic! How did she get there? What was her story? Why was her whole existence such a secret to the reader?Well, I was disappointed. The whole book has a dreamy almost drug liked atmosphere to it. Even though I read the whole book I felt like I missed something. Had the pages stuck together? Had I missed a chapter or two? I was really not much closer to understanding the whole situation. It did bring up a few good points, and explained the historical aspects of the time but I was not pleased. Though it had great reviews and is still being republished today I feel like it was too esoteric to be of any use. Lovers of the Brontes are much better served by reading Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael.
nycbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had no idea that this novel had anything to do with Jane Eyre. **If you've never read Jane Eyre and are planning to, you might want to stop reading here. **I happened to see it the other day at the library and picked it up. So here we go.Wide Sargasso Sea imagines the background of "Bertha" the first wife of Rochester from Jane Eyre. It's supposed to clear up the mystery of why she ending up being the crazy lady in the attic.And I say "supposed" because it didn't really clear up anything to me. At the end of the book, I still feel that "Bertha" a.k.a. Antoinette Cosway, the wealthy Creole girl from the Caribbean, is still such a mystery.Let's be honest. I didn't really like this book. Classic literature it may be but here's why I had problems with it.1) Rochester doesn't really seem like the Rochester from Jane Eyre. That said, if he's supposed to come off as an evil man who enslaves her in his attic....it kind of failed. You could see where he seemed just as stuck in having to marry her as she was to him. And there was no logical reason for him to start calling her "Bertha", it was out of character, and it just bugged me. (A large portion in the middle of the book is written from Rochester's perspective. I DID like that.)2) The book jacket made it seem as if she had no choice in marrying him. As if against her will she was forced. But I didn't really see that in the book either. I couldn't really see WHY she had to marry him or why she did.3) She remains a complete mystery. If she's supposed to be strong-willed, I don't see it. If she was supposed to be an innocent who was manipulated, I don't see it. I'm just not sure where the author was wanting to take this character.4) The characters were confusing, the writing was confusing...I'll just leave it at that.What I did like about this book:1) The very beginning is very vivid. It's the part where Antoinette is a child, growing up as a Creole without a father, and the social changes that happen on the island where she lives. I'd tag this as "classic" just from that small section. Then the book just goes down-hill from there.2) In a weird way, I could never get a picture of what Antoinette looked like. Maybe it was purposeful since Antoinette was caught between worlds, not fitting into either one. I thought that was a really powerful writing tool she used.3) I did like the parallel between Jane's upbringing and Antoinette's. Lots of similarities.4) Jean Rhys. I am kind of fascinated about the author herself. I'd love to read a book just on her.
kazzablanca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued to read this book, as the supposed prequel to one of my all-time favourite novels, but I was a bit disappointed.Whilst the prose was evocative and described the setting beautifully, the characters seemed hollow.I was most disappointed with Rochester's behavious toward his wife once he realised that he couldn't love her anymore. To have literally imprisoned her in marriage for that reason is a terrible injustice and this perspective seems to taint the character that we had learned to love in Jane Eyre.
tonidew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As good a prequel as you'll find. Richly written, sometimes in streams of consciousness. Rhys swaps voices without offering clues, leaving us sometimes bewildered and always blundering towards the inexorable, horrible denouement.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book with its secrets, wild nature and romantic tensions. Rhys does a wonderful job of conveying the ambiguity of the colonists: people who belonged neither to the country into which they were born and raised nor to the homeland which they often never even visited. Antoinette's family is neither white nor black, has lost all status and wealth and with it its identity. Madness is the only possible outcome since they cannot hope to rebuilt in a hostile world that has changed and left them behind. The people whom Antoinette loves the most are all black: Christophine, Sandi and Tia; yet, she can never have a relationship of equals. She must marry a white man who will forever hate and resent her because she is so different. The use of nature is beautiful both visually and symbolically: a lush, welcoming, fertile land that can become crushing, overwhelming and suffocating. There are passages that could have been developed: time passes in bumps and it's sometimes difficult to understand the sudden change in Antoinette's marriage, from cordial and hopeful to hating and distrustful. The alternating voices can also be challenging to manage, breaking the rhythm of the story. The reader understands the reasons, but the transitions are abrupt. Rhys does a wonderful job of skirting around and blending emotions, but sometimes too much so. The ending is absolutely incredible: it beautifully recaptures the entire novel in one blinding event. Ultimately this novel does what it set out to do: avenge the first Mrs Rochester.
1morechapter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Wide Sargasso Sea is listed in the top 100 novels by the Modern Library. I wouldn't go that far, but I did enjoy it. A warning though--some fans of Jane Eyre may hate it. Most members of my face to face book group felt like it ruined their idea of Mr. Rochester's character. I felt the same way when I read March by Geraldine Brooks earlier this year. Little Women is a favorite book of mine, and I didn't like how Mr. and Mrs. March were portrayed in Brooks' story at all.However, in this book, we learn how Mr. Rochester became the dark, brooding figure in Jane Eyre. We not only feel sorry for him, though, we also feel sorry for Bertha as well. At least I did. We learn how and why she had a mental breakdown. We learn that both she and Mr. Rochester are victims. While I won't go so far as to integrate this story into my feelings about and fondness for Jane Eyre, I am able to take this as a separate story altogether and appreciate it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the idea was to allow the reader to experience decent into madness through a story that is incomprehensible, with no real plot line. This is just an experience in disjointed ramblings. I can only attribute the glowing reviews it received to folks having been paid to write positive reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those who live in a wonderful society full of logical and sane pursuits, how can you possibly understand the steps to the darkness and the madness one can be slowly drowning in? Those who have felt the other side of life, the echos inside themselves , will knowingly nod at Antoinette's tragedy and Rochester's skeletons in the closet. Rhys does not pollute Rochester but clarify his character as a man , and in Jane Eyre, a man who has tried to murder that side of him , that monster, for her sake.Fascinatng for those who understand madness, I'm sure those who have at times felt themselves suffocating by aura shrouding themselves will understand this beautiful book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent if you sit down and pick every detail apart. One must have a firm grasp on Jane Eyre before reading this novel. If you know every aspect of Jane Eyre you'll throughly enjoy the maddness that is weaved throught this novel. Remember to concentrate on the roles of the great houses and link them to the roles of women in society of that time period. Good Luck!