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Wide Sargasso Sea

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  31,959 ratings  ·  2,500 reviews
Written over the course of twenty-one years and published in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea, based on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, takes place in Jamaica and Dominica in 1839-45. The novel acts as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë's famous 1847 novel Jane Eyre. It is the story of the first Mrs. Rochester, Antoinette (Bertha) Mason, a white Creole heiress, from the time of her youth ...more
Mass Market Paperback, Movie Tie-In, 190 pages
Published 1992 by W.W. Norton (first published 1966)
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Steve Sckenda
“My name is not Bertha; why do you call me Bertha?” How does Antoinette Cosway of Coulibri, Jamaica, become Bertha Rochester of Thornfield Hall, England? How does she fall from Creole heiress to Rochester’s “crazy wife”?

This is a famous prequel to Jane Eyre, but the 1966 novel is very different from its 1847 precursor. A reader’s love for the first provides no indication of the second’s favorable reception, because they are very different reading experiences. Gone is the moral earnestness. A gl
Sep 15, 2010 Tatiana rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
Sep 14, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
May 20, 2013 Dolors rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Rakhi Dalal


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

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
Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 Emily May rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Mar 07, 2012 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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

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
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
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
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
Ian Pagan-Gladfly
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
Paquita Maria Sanchez
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
There were two Jean Rhyses. The first one wrote the major part of her works, at the peak of her creativity, when she received guidance and encouragement from, and had an affair with, Ford Madox Ford. This ended with the publication of her "Good Morning, Midnight." She was then 49 years old.

The second Jean Rhys was a much older one, in 1966, when this novel was published. She was then already 76 years old.

In-between the two was a period of 27 years which she spent in profound misery: her third
I wanted to read this because I felt that the character of Bertha Rochester was never adequately developed in Jane Eyre. Unfortunately, it seems she is destined to remain a cipher, since I failed to find much to her in this book either. Her past is fleshed out more, but she herself remains inaccessible. Rhys also fails to elevate her madness to the plane of psychological realism; it's just as random and cartoonish here as it is in the original Jane Eyre.

The book's not a total wash; there's some
Mar 01, 2008 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who loved Jane Eyre or love the gothic genre
The entire point and purpose of this novel is the atmosphere and the mood that it creates both in the minds of the character and the reader. That's really what I felt was the most accomplished thing here. It was very gothic, but managed not to feel antiquated or like all we needed was a few vampires and we had an Anne Rice novel. Rhys makes you feel the scents, the breezes and the raging emotions of the west indies that she is presenting, and I always love that in a novel.

The narrative point is
Autumn Brady

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
I have read several books over the past year that were inspired by or offered different viewpoints on other books and stories. These included "The Red Tent", "Wicked", "The Hours", and most recently "Wide Sargasso Sea." I have enjoyed reading all of them and love seeing new perspectives on classic tales. "Wide Sargasso Sea" is Jean Rhys' take on Bronte's "Jane Eyre". However, instead of focusing on Jane Eyre, Ryhs instead turns the lens onto the life of Bertha, the mad woman who is locked in the ...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 truly an essential piece of progressive literature, a much needed reproo
Althea Ann
This is the part where I have to admit that I've never read Jane Eyre.

I did, however see the 1993 'Wide Sargasso Sea' film, which I liked very much, although the title confused me rather a lot, as no sea is really featured in the story. I thought reading the book would clear that up. It didn't. The book is much, much less sexy than the film.

I picked the book up because I was visiting Dominica, where it is set. This may or may not have been wise. While it was very interesting to see the depictio
Jan 27, 2008 Alison rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in West Indies culture/politics; Jane Eyreites
This is a must-read for anyone who's read and enjoyed "Jane Eyre." It's the story of Bertha...Mr. Rochester's first wife. This short novel (around 100 pages) is divided into three parts.

Part I tells the story of Bertha's childhood in the West Indies from her own point of view. It outlines her relationship to her mother, her few aquaintances, and her homeland.

Part II is from the point of view of Bertha's new husband (an unnamed Mr. Rochester) and details his reaction to disspelled secrets about
Nate D
Well ahead of her time, Jean Rhys published four exceptional novels in the 20s and 30s to minor attention. Then, in 1966, she reappeared with Wide Sargasso Sea, a kinda prequel and reconfiguation of a part of Jane Eyre, a secret backstory. It was massively successful. She was suddenly "the best novelist in Britain". She said only "It came too late." In any event, this late book is certainly, though late, of a part with her usual considerations: internal monologue and the lives of the cast-aside ...more
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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 in ...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...” 115 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.” 77 likes
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