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Wide Sargasso Sea

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  44,572 Ratings  ·  3,555 Reviews
In 1966 Jean Rhys reemerged after a long silence with a novel called Wide Sargasso Sea. Rhys had enjoyed minor literary success in the 1920s and '30s with a series of evocative novels featuring women protagonists adrift in Europe, verging on poverty, hoping to be saved by men. By the '40s, however, her work was out of fashion, too sad for a world at war. And Rhys herself w ...more
Paperback, Norton Critical Edition, 261 pages
Published November 17th 1998 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.; A Norton Critical Edition (first published 1966)
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♥♥Mari♥♥ I have put this book on hold for now, because I need to be objective about it, and I have noticed my rising anger as I continued to read. I love…moreI have put this book on hold for now, because I need to be objective about it, and I have noticed my rising anger as I continued to read. I love Bronte's "Jane Eyre", and no, I don't think Rhys's novel contains a plausible portrayal of Rochester. I would say that his personality has definitely been twisted to fit Rhys's message in this book. In fact, he's totally unrecognizable. This is not the Rochester I know from Bronte's novel. He doesn't even express himself like Bronte's Rochester. His voice is terse -- that is, when he decides to speak, which is seldom -- with none of the rapier-sharp wit that shines through in the original. In fact, Rhys's version of Rochester is a rather lackluster one. Gone is the passion -- which makes me wonder WHY the synopsis claims that this novel is "passionate". It is nothing of the sort, and Rochester, in Rhys's hands, has become nearly as dead as a door nail. (With a nod to Charles Dickens)(less)
Ylva Maybe 14 or 15. There are no explicit sex scenes in it and the depiction of violence is also not very explicit.

Community Reviews

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Reader, I married him first.
Jun 09, 2009 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
Bookdragon Sean
Nov 09, 2016 Bookdragon Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want the full picture
Bertha Mason is the madwoman in the attic; she is the raving lunatic that is Rochester’s first wife in Jane Eyre,but have you ever stopped to wonder what her side of the story is? Have you ever considered that she may have a tale to tell?

Jean Rhys has, and she tells it to you in all its traumatic colours. Our crazy lunatic isn’t that far from Jane. Bronte describes her as a semi-human, an animal that growls and raves as she stalks the hall of Thornfield like some unidentifiable spectre. But wha
Jun 06, 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 04, 2013 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
Sep 05, 2014 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 ex ...more
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
May 19, 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
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
Aug 24, 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
Rakhi Dalal
May 21, 2013 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
Nov 09, 2016 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I watched her die many times. In my way, not in hers. In sunlight, in shadow, by moonlight, by candlelight. In the long afternoons when the house was empty. Only the sun was there to keep us company. We shut him out. And why not? Very soon she was as eager for what's called loving as I was - more lost and drowned afterwards."

Forget the Jane Eyre parallel, you don't need it. This book encapsulates the melancholy of evolving times and evolving minds and it measures human decency. Just when one th
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
Dec 13, 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

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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
Jul 20, 2015 Sara 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

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. Unfortunately, this atmo
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
Jul 23, 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
Jul 29, 2013 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2010 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
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
I think 90s indie-pop starlet Natalie Imbruglia best sums up my feelings about this book in her most famous song.

I am 'torn'

Edward. MY Edward Rochester. You've changed...

Oh this is a tricky one to review and figure out how it is I feel about this book as the source material is just ever present in my mind.

I'm going to pop the remainder of my review in spoiler tags, not because my review is that spoilery in relation to this book but, because it contains MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR JANE EYRE!!!!!!!!
This is actually really good. It's like the source material of Jane Eyre, except more so. Claustrophobic, socially incisive, complex, maddening.
Simona Bartolotta
Feb 02, 2017 Simona Bartolotta rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1900
The book is brief so it's not that hard to reach the end, but I found it rather pointless and it left me completely, absolutely, utterly unimpressed. Maybe it's my fault, but that's what happened.
(In case you're wondering, yes, I have read Jane Eyre.)
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Jan 18, 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
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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...” 175 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.” 117 likes
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