Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
About the author
Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in 1890, the daughter of a Welsh doctor and a white Creole mother. At sixteen she moved to England, where she worked at many different jobs, chorus girl, and artist’s model being just two of them.
After her first marriage broke up she started to write and was encouraged by Ford Madox Ford. She wrote The Left Bank, Quartet, Mr Mackenzie, Voyage in the Dark and Good Morning, Midnight between 1927 and 1939. However due to the themes being way ahead of their time, the books eventually went out of print and Rhys was sadly forgotten about.
In 1966 she made a come back with Wide Sargasso Sea and won the Royal Society of Literature Award and the W. H. Smith Award with it. She was awarded an CBE in 1978 and sadly passed away in 1979.
Born into an oppressive colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Conway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. After their marriage, disturbing rumours begin to circulate, poisoning her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven towards madness.
I know my review of this book might prove unpopular to most, but it is just my opinion and nobody has to believe the same. I bought this book a couple of months ago from the Bronte Parsonage Museum (one of my favourite places) with high hopes, as I had heard such good things about it and remember my English Literature teacher telling me I should definitely read it. So quite a few years later, I decided to listen to my English teacher. Sadly, I was greatly disappointed and I did not get on well with the book at all.
The book is written in three parts, the first part is told in Antoinette’s own words whilst she is a young girl. The second is in the words of her husband the young Mr Rochester telling us about his arrival in the West Indies, his marriage and subsequent events. The final part is again by Antoinette, but now set in England, in Thornfield Hall.
The first part I really struggled to get into and to be honest almost gave up on, I found it disjointed and difficult to read. I did feel sorry for Antoinette, her childhood was a not a happy one, her only real friend who seemed to be on her side was her Aunt Cora.
Mr Rochester was a complete alien to me and I was not impressed by his portrayal and I had to think of him completely unrelated to Jane Eyre just to continue reading. The plot is believable, of Mr Rochester having to marry for money, but he is way too gullible and quite frankly appears at times like a drunken lunatic himself.
Another major issue I had was Antoinette’s name, I just do not understand the change to Bertha, it just seems again too un-plausible a plot line to me.
I really struggled with this book, and it left me disappointed and to be honest slightly angry. My review is not all bad though I promise, I did really enjoy the third part of the book and how it linked up to Jane Eyre. The descriptions in the attic were good and well linked, in fact I would have liked a little more from the third part, as it is only short. I also really enjoyed how Rhys described the locations and the local people and you could really tell she was drawing on real life memories.
The book is only short and did not take me long to read thankfully, as I am not sure I would have completed it if it had been longer.
On Goodreads I gave this 2 out of 5 stars.
Lady Book Dragon