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The Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys
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The Wide Sargasso Sea

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  40,343 Ratings  ·  3,175 Reviews
Jean Rhys' novels and stories continue to win new popularity and critical acclaim as fresh generations of readers discover her poignant and disturbing insights into women's lives. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys brilliantly and imaginatively constructs the girlhood and marriage of Antoinette Bertha Cosway, the mysterious madwoman in Jane Eyre. It is a romantic and tragic novel ...more
156 pages
Published 1968 by Penguin Paperback (first published 1966)
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Greg Z Suzanne, absolutely, Rhys's portrayal of Rochester is right on target. He was mean in the book, rotten to Jane, and he certainly contributes to his…moreSuzanne, absolutely, Rhys's portrayal of Rochester is right on target. He was mean in the book, rotten to Jane, and he certainly contributes to his first wife's trip (deeper?) into insanity. Rochester is not the marrying kind. I didn't like him in 'Jane Eyre", and don't like him here. I still don't believe for a second that Jane (educated, rich, strong) would actually wind up with this guy.(less)
Amy Because Richard's father (Antoinette's stepfather) loved her and wanted her to be looked after and in those days that meant married, so when he died,…moreBecause Richard's father (Antoinette's stepfather) loved her and wanted her to be looked after and in those days that meant married, so when he died, Richard carried out his wishes. Mr Rochester needed money to get away from depending on his father and older brother, so he pretended to love Antoinette.(less)
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Reader, I married him first.
Sep 15, 2010 Tatiana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like books about incoherent lunatics
In short - incoherent overpraised rubbish.

I have read my share of classics over the years. Some of them were boring, some outside the area of my interest, but never had I come across one that was so dreadfully bad and at the same time so critically acclaimed.

I simply can't comprehend how this jumble of disjointed sentences can be seriously called a "masterpiece." The story was almost impossible to follow. Had I not read "Jane Eyre," I'd be lost in this book completely. The characters' motivatio
Oct 23, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably contains some spoilers

“Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible – the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest trees, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach or for some reason not to be touched. One was snaky looking, another like an octopus with long thin brown tentacles bare of leaves hanging from a twisted root.
Nandakishore Varma
Every once in a while, I stop to think about the neglected characters in various novels who exist only as plot devices. What are their stories? If you saw the novel through their eyes, what would it be like?

Therefore, ever since I heard the premise of Jean Rhys's novel, I was eager to read it. Bertha, Mr. Rochester's first wife, must have had a life other than as the "madwoman in the attic". I do not know if Charlotte Bronte ever thought about it, but Ms. Rhys obviously did, and this compellingl
Sep 14, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who have already read Jane Eyre
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: I would never have found Jean if not for Mariel

As many of you who read my reviews are aware, I had devoted this summer to exclusively reading female writers, as my reading list was woefully lacking in books written by the fairer sex. It has been an exceptional experience for me as it has opened my eyes to such great writers as Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, Alice Munro and the incomparable Jean Rhys.

Jean Rhys! I feel I owe a debt to the original publishers of Wide Sargasso Sea because if not for its publication her exceptional early work
Apr 28, 2014 Cecily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the idea of one author piggy-backing, uninvited, on the characters and plot of another, is decidedly dodgy. However, this is widely regarded as a classic, and as I've read Jane Eyre many times (review here:, I thought I should finally try this prequel novella.

With such well-known books, I don't think it's a spoiler to say this imagines the story of the mad first wife in Rochester's attic: from her childhood in Jamaica, through to her marriage to
May 20, 2013 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of playing with fire
Recommended to Dolors by: the voices
Shelves: read-in-2013
Fear of the fallen myth syndrome is what has prevented me from reading this book for years.
You have to understand, Jane Eyre was my first "adult" novel. I was still a tomboy who had only read Enid Blyton's "The Secret Seven" when one scorching summer day the torn spine of a seemingly ancient book caught my attention among a few volumes sitting on my Godmother's shelves. I remember that summer as one of the best of my life, and while Jane became my personal heroine and I developed a fervent crus
Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 Emily May rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily May by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: classics, 2012
Beware of a few Jane Eyre spoilers if you've managed to live your life so far without a) reading it, or b) knowing what happens.

One thing that really gets on my nerves is when an author writes a book about another author's story/character/whatever and you cannot understand or appreciate what you are being given unless you read the first author's work. Now, I have read Jan
Rakhi Dalal
Jul 16, 2014 Rakhi Dalal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haunting


Sitting in bed. Scribbling. Using a pencil instead of pen for the ink spills over while I shake. Influence of cheap wine.

Sometimes I get out of control, freaky. My neighbors think I am mad. Ha! What do they know of madness? Who knows of madness? People only see what is there before their eyes. Who bothers to think how the despair creeps inside, shutting out the doors to the World permanently?

I look at the copy of Jane Eyre kept on the table by my side. I fill with rage.

No one tho
A few years ago, I happened to have a chat with an old friend. We were catching up after a long time and like most friends do, we picked up our favorite teen (innocent) crimes to gorge on. One of our best memoirs was of those sprints we made to the nearby movie hall to grab the tickets of a show at the penultimate minute of the show time. And we were suddenly overcome by the desire to relive those days. Since I was visiting her city, I let her choose the movie hall and the movie. She quipped tha ...more
And if the razor grass cut my legs I would think 'It's better than people.' Black ants or red ones, tall nests swarming with white ants, rain that soaked me to the skin - once I saw a snake. All better than people.
Better. Better, better than people.
Imagine you are owned. Not from day one, not full physically either, but the brief taste of the former and the dire potential of the latter is enough to make you scream. For scream is not only what you can do but what you are expected to do, yo
Sep 20, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An epic romance made meek, singular, aromatic, ethereal, surreal... a fresh little nugget of splendor, of much-needed prose perfection. This is gothic romance at its absolute height. (It's perhaps the best piece of fan-fiction ever.) And I say this as "WSS" is in actuality a side story formulated for the emblematic crazed woman smack in the middle of "Jane Eyre". But it takes a life of its own... merging elements of brutal nature and brutal nurture both, to birth a spectacle like one I've never ...more

Wide Sargasso Sea is one of those works of fiction, like Ulysses, which require background knowledge to fully appreciate. In that sense it is more a work of literature to enjoy from a distance rather than emotionally. Intellectual love is perhaps the best way I can phrase how I appreciated this novel.

Having read Jane Eyre makes one able to properly understand the intricacies of the story unfolded in this novel. Jean Rhys uses the 'mad woman' of Jane's story to look at events in a previous histor
Sara Steger
Aug 11, 2016 Sara Steger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
Jean Rhys takes us to the West Indies, an environment that is heavy, languid, stifling, and claustrophobic. It is not surprising that people go insane here, what is surprising is that anyone is able to keep their sanity. In this world of mysticism, racial mixtures and moving boundaries, is born the tragedy that becomes the catalyst to one of the greatest love stories of all time. But that is after, this story belongs, not to the governess, but to the wife.

Antoinette Cosway is a girl who is press
Dec 31, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caribbean
Jean Rhys provides an atmospheric backdrop to Jane Eyre, asking some obvious questions and posing some difficult questions. The slave trade and its profits are behind much of the nouveaux riches of the eighteenth century and their country houses; especially in the west of England and around the port cities of Bristol and Liverpool. The novel addresses the aftermath of the end of slavery and juxtaposes another sort of slavery; marriage. The link is an obvious one; the marriage is arranged by Anto ...more
Jul 28, 2016 Claudia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5 Sterne.

Zauber und Wahnsinn der Karibik

"Jeden Tag beobachteten wir den Sonnenuntergang von dem strohgedeckten Pavillon aus. Wir beobachteten den Himmel und das ferne, in Flammen stehende Meer - alle Farben waren in diesem Feuer enthalten, und die mächtigen Wolken waren von Flammen umrandet und durchschossen. Ich wartete auf den Duft der Blumen aum Fluss - sie öffneten sich, wenn die Dunkelheit hereinbrach, und sie brach schnell herein. Keine Nacht oder Dunkelheit, wie ich sie kannte, sondern
Ian Vinogradus
Love’s Fierce Play

"Wide Sargasso Sea" is both a parallel novel with respect to "Jane Eyre" and a novel that could stand alone, if read with no knowledge of the connection.

It explores the Caribbean background of the marriage of [Bertha] Antoinette Mason to an unnamed Englishman (presumably Edward Rochester) and their return to England, where she is confined to a room in a "great house" (or is it made, as she believes, of cardboard?).

Antoinette is a Creole, her origins being half-English and

Published 119 years after Jane Eyre, the famous classic that inspired it, Wide Sargasso Sea was Jean Rhys’s attempt to give Bertha Mason (here going primarily by the name “Antoinette Cosway”) a detailed back story. Rhys's basic vision was a strong one but unfortunately overall problematic. She imagined Antoinette as a Creole girl in a gorgeously lush and verdant Jamaica, with the story opening at the height of political and racial tensions there. Unfor
Mar 07, 2012 Mariel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I'll come running with a bed on fire
Recommended to Mariel by: your body's over me
"Very soon she'll join all the others who know the secret and will not tell it. Or cannot. Or try and fail because they do not know enough. They can be recognized. White faces, dazed eyes, aimless gestures, high-pitched laughter. The way they walk and talk and scream or try to kill (themselves or you) if you laugh back at them. Yes, they've got to be watched. For the time comes when they try to kill, then disappear. But others are waiting to take their places, it's a long, long line. She's one o ...more
Lynne King
How do we as mere humans define the term “madness” or even know what madness is as defined in everyday society? Does it take an external factor such as the case of a gunman who “arbitrarily” goes into a classroom and shoots innocent children; a person who robs someone and decides to stab or strangle him/her as the choice may be, or is it purely an internal “genetic illness” that gradually erodes into the psyche of a person hurtling him/her down a path from which there is no return, towards destr ...more
I loved Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but the character in that book I was most interested in wasn’t Jane, it was Mr. Rochester’s “mad wife in the attic,” Bertha. I felt sorry for Bertha. I didn’t feel she was treated right. I also wanted to know more about her. I was fascinated by Bertha. I wanted to know where she came from and what it was that drove her mad. In Jane Eyre, Bertha is a raving lunatic, almost inhuman. But something had to drive this poor woman insane. Surely Rochester didn’t mar ...more
Anytime a writer takes on the idea of writing or rewriting another writers story or characters, they are treading on delicate, even sacred ground. Especially in this instance, you are talking about an iconic work, a masterpiece, the gold standard of classic English literature, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. But somehow Jean Rhys pulls it off without too much damage to the original work, and let's face it, Bertha needed to have her story told. Bertha's real name is Antoinette Cosway, and this is ...more
Jean Rhys, a Creole woman from Dominica, writes back to the racist and ableist strand in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which painted a woman with the same background as Rhys as a monstrous lunatic, locked away on the third floor of the house. Rhys tells the story of this character from childhood, seeking the roots of her tragedy.

This melancholic, shadowy, evocative, power-shifting book, elegantly and beautifully written, is a much needed reproof to a literary tradition which has presumed to spea
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Jan 25, 2010 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
So it turns out that I maybe should have read Jane Eyre before taking on this novel. Despite the fact that ambiguity seems to be the hinge upon which the end of this novel swings, it still seemed that that very ambiguity was more than likely the twist to the original story that moves this novel from "loose reference to a classic" to the realm of "fantastically effective literary poaching." All the same, the text itself was haunting, from the still moments of lovemaking (sort of a less detailed v ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
What I liked best was the amazing voice - it reminded me a little of Heart of Darkness, or what I remember of it, anyway: that sense of oppressive, humid doom; the vegetal, dangerous, organic descent into madness. A little voodoo on the side; themes of social injustice - slavery, colonial oppression - framing the personal injustice (the reframing of women's sexuality by the patriarchy as madness, to name one).

I love how the story built towards increasing levels of delusion brought on by spells
The accepted wisdom of writing is to “write what you know.” And Jean Rhys knew the Caribbean area, about being a woman there, and about the effects of colonialism. Like Bertha Mason/Antoinette Cosway (the future madwoman in Mr. Rochester’s attic in Jane Eyre), she was a Creole woman from Dominica and she led a difficult life when she was sent to school in England. Did she feel like she belonged in neither the Caribbean culture nor in England, perhaps feeling mired in the seaweed of the Sargasso ...more
This is actually really good. It's like the source material of Jane Eyre, except more so. Claustrophobic, socially incisive, complex, maddening.
Sep 02, 2008 Inder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If you have read Jane Eyre, you must read this too. If you haven't read Jane Eyre, don't bother.
*** This review contains spoilers for the book Jane Eyre, and because Wide Sargasso Sea is based on Jane Eyre, there are some spoilers for this book as well. However, I imagine that most readers, like me, know the basic premise of both books before they start reading. Thus, I am not hiding my review.***

Haunting and lovely and very dark. A troubling book about passion, obsession, lust, and deep loneliness, written by a woman who ought to know. This is "Caribbean gothic," and gorgeously done. Howe
… If I was bound for hell let it be hell. No more false heavens. No more damned magic. You hate me and I hate you. We’ll see who hates best.

Gothic literature takes a lot of different forms. Jane Eyre is gothic, in a way that Wide Sargasso Sea isn’t. JE rewards the sensible young woman, who acts rationally and virtuously, even Rochester is rewarded (after being punished to a degree), WSS does no such thing, quite the opposite. No one is rational in WSS, everyone deceives and is deceived in this

I've thought a lot about this book since reading it. Forgive me, this review will probably sound like philosophical mumbo jumbo and make no sense whatsoever (I'm going to just carelessly throw all my thoughts out there), but I haven't shut my brain off since reading this.

It made me ask myself : What is the truth?

By reading I found my answer had developed into this thought: It seems every single person has their own truth. Are life events ever remembered by their witnesses and bearers as they r
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Jean Rhys, originally Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, was a Caribbean novelist who wrote in the mid 20th century. Her first four novels were published during the 1920s and 1930s, but it was not until the publication of Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 that she emerged as a significant literary figure. A "prequel" to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea won a prestigious WH Smith Literary Award i ...more
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“You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone. We are alone in the most beautiful place in the world...” 155 likes
“I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.” 103 likes
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