Book Review: "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys

This is the story of Antoinette Cosway and her life in the Caribbean until her English husband brings her to England and locks her up in his attic.  That’s right, she’s the madwoman in Mr. Rochester’s attic in Jane Eyre, and this is her imagined backstory.

A few things stood out to me:  first, we all know who she is and therefore who he is, but I don’t think he is ever actually named in this book.  Second, in Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester is the victim – stuck married to a lunatic that he can’t divorce to marry Jane.  But here, he is not exactly an innocent man.

This book took a bit to get into, to understand the pacing is just as important as the story.  The majority of this book takes place in Jamaica and Dominica (where the author was born and raised).  The days are hot, the forests lush, the flowers fragrant, and the rum abundant.  Both Antoinette and Mr. Rochester have suffered from “fevers” at different points in the book, and the writing has a feverish, dreamlike quality to it.  There are passages that are lazy and slow with the heat, and others that are hot with passionate emotion (and I don’t mean the loving kind).  It is no wonder that Antoinette went crazy, as well as her mother before her.  The hatred they were surrounded with could certainly make anyone go mad.  

I may need to reread Jane Eyre now (though I won’t be in a rush).  I didn’t particularly like it very much the first time.  But I wonder if reading it again would change my mind at all.  But, no rush… I am not at a loss for things to read!

Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
W.W. Norton & Company, 1982.  First published 1966.
171 pages
Source:  Purchased

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