Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

Book - 2011 | Penguin Essentials ed
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Jean Rhys's spell-binding novel Wide Sargasso Sea , inspired by Jane Eyre and winner the Royal Society of Literature Award is beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range. 'There is no looking glass here and I don't know what I am like now... Now they have taken everything away. What am I doing in this place and who am I?' If Antoinette Cosway, a spirited Creole heiress, could have foreseen the terrible future that awaited her, she would not have married the young Englishman. Initially drawn to her beauty and sensuality, he becomes increasingly frustrated by his inability to reach into her soul. He forces Antoinette to conform to his rigid Victorian ideals, unaware that in taking away her identity he is destroying a part of himself as well as pushing her towards madness.Set against the lush backdrop of 1830s Jamaica, Jean Rhys's powerful, haunting masterpiece was inspired by her fascination with the first Mrs Rochester, the mad wife in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.'Compelling, painful and exquisite' Guardian 'Brilliant. A tale of dislocation and dispossession, which Rhys writes with a kind of romantic cynicism, desperate and pungent' The Times 'Rhys turns a menacing cipher into a grieving, plausible young woman, and one whose story says whole worlds about global mixtures, about the misunderstandings between the colonized, the colonizers and the people who can't easily say which they are' Time Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in 1890, the daughter of a Welsh doctor and a white Creole mother, and came to England when she was sixteen. Her first book, a collection of stories called The Left Bank , was published in 1927. This was followed by Quartet (originally Postures, 1928), After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1930), Voyage in the Dark (1934) and Good Morning, Midnight (1939). None of these books was particularly successful and with the outbreak of war they went out of print. Jean Rhys dropped from sight until nearly twenty years later she was discovered living reclusively in Cornwall. During those years she had accumulated the stories collected in Tigers are Better-Looking . In 1966 she made a sensational reappearance with Wide Sargasso Sea , which won the Royal Society of Literature Award and the W. H. Smith Award. Her final collection of stories, Sleep It Off Lady , appeared in 1976 and Smile Please , her unfinished autobiography, was published posthumously in 1979. Jean Rhys died in 1979.
Publisher: London ;, Toronto, Ont. :, Penguin,, 2011
Edition: Penguin Essentials ed
ISBN: 9780241951552
Branch Call Number: F RHY 2011 NVD
Characteristics: 151 pages ; 18 cm


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Apr 07, 2021

A poignant retelling on Jane Eyre’s Bertha Mason, Rhys wove a tale of a marriage of identity crises and power struggles. ⁣

Unlike the reader’s assumption while reading Jane Eyre, Bertha (really named Antoinette) did not grow up wealthy and privileged. Daughter of a neglectful mother and a dilapidated property, Antoinette’s identity was caught amongst the local racial resentments, her family’s awkward socioeconomic position and the Emancipation Act. ⁣

Thus Antoinette’s life was one of self-contradiction: she belonged to neither the wealthy white class nor the disgruntled colored people, but because she was already emotionally isolated, she was forced to cling to her homeland and its culture even more tightly. ⁣

Enter the young Rochester, cowardly, emasculated and equally indignant. He felt betrayed by his family for being financially forced to marry a stranger, despicable for lacking the courage to confront them about it, and threatened by his attraction to Antoinette as well as his vibrant yet mysterious new environment. ⁣

The two were doomed from the start: both proud and strong-willed, they challenged each other first to love and then to hate. Both were also unreliable narrators, forcing the reader to decipher true intentions through third parties and layers of coded dialogues. Due to the contemporary social expectations and legal definitions, Rochester eventually gained the upper hand, depriving Antoinette of her freedom, identity and in the end, even her name. Despite continuing to think of her as “Antoinette,” he made sure that, in the end, he became the sole author of “Bertha.” ⁣

Despite everything Rochester had done, however, he could find no peace. All the wealth in the world could not aid him with his torments and turmoils, not necessarily even his prized antidote, Jane. And that is what I admired the most about this book: despite being a short retelling and prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea was able to engage with the classic in a way that is both logical and impactful.

Apr 07, 2021


Jan 31, 2020

i would recommend this for fans of Jane Eyre only. Otherwise it is a bit of a rambling mess!

May 17, 2019

I liked the book better the first time I read it.

Jun 21, 2018

While vivid, I didn't by Rochester's voice. There is barely a hint of the austere personality in his voice, though it displayed in his actions. Plus Antoinette (his wife's voice) did not differ significantly from his, even though they are both massively different people in both personality and action. I personally found that discombobulating.

May 24, 2017

Antoinette was born into a formerly prosperous family on a Caribbean island. Their fortune vanished, however, when slavery became illegal because with slavery, of course, went free labor. The freed slaves resented the family, understandably, and the other white families excluded them because the mother, Annette, was from Martinique. In an uprising, the islanders, i.e. former slaves, burned the fine old house down (accidentally?) and in doing so brought about the death of Antoinette's sickly younger brother, Pierre.

Homeless now, and grieving the loss of her son, Annette became inconsolable and seemed to lose her grip on reality. Antoinette was "given" (sold) into marriage to an Englishman who was never named. He was desperate for money and married her within just a couple of weeks after they met. She at first refused him, but he convinced her of his kind feelings toward her.

Unfortunately, he is unwilling to accept the signs of island culture he finds in her. Her attention to dreams, for example, her reliance on Christophene who furnishes locals including Antoinette with magic potions, etc. He finds her beautiful but seems to hate her for it. He betrays her with one of her former servants and ultimately takes her to England and houses her in his grand, old, semi-abandoned mansion, never to see her again.

Loneliness and hurt overtake Antoinette and she loses touch with reality just like her mother did.

This book was very difficult to read. It was short and left a lot out -- actions, emotions, everything. Something about it was enchanting, though, and I mean that sort of literally. It seemed to have magic in it in some way. Upon finishing it, I find I didn't really understand what was going on. I think it will be one of the very rare books that I read again. Not that it was good, or that it was so beautifully written, but that it has really burrowed its way into my mind.

Dec 16, 2016

Other copies available

Mar 15, 2016

A precious gem of a book, wonderfully written, makes the reader pay attention to every syllable to get the full meaning of what is going on.

Jul 06, 2015

I was intrigued by the concept behind this book--Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite novels. However, I really could not get past the trippy dream-sequence writing style. It was annoying to read. I get what the author was trying to accomplish here, but it wasn't really to my personal taste.

A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: "Based on the classic 'Jane Eyre', it tells the story of Antoinette, who marries Mr. Rochester. Spanning across the Caribbean to England, it is a vibrant, sensual novel about how people can be turned against each other."

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