Emily May's Reviews > Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
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Aug 19, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: classics, 2012
Recommended to Emily May by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Read on August 19, 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.
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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 Jane Eyre many times, but If I hadn't I would have been clueless as to what Rhys was babbling on about here. For me, this book really demonstrates that the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list really does not mean "The 1001 Best Books Ever".

And I do appreciate the original idea behind Jean Rhys' novel. The mad woman in Mr Rochester's attic had a story to tell, it has long bothered feminists and other critics how this character was portrayed in Jane Eyre because, at the end of the day, this mad woman was a person with a history - or should have been - not just a little crazy puppet there to pop up and throw a spanner in the works when Jane and Mr Rochester finally got together. Rhys wanted to give her the past that Bronte didn't, and she also wanted to show her decline into madness so the reader could appreciate who she was and where she came from and why she ended up the way she did.

I just don't think it was handled very well and I didn't like the writing style at all. The narrative relies upon dream-like visions, fragmented impressions, incomplete sentences, and multiple first-person voices to create an overall sense of disorientation in the reader... or so is the intention according to my little bit of google research. I'd say "complete bewilderment" is more accurate than "disorientation". I find that I can't appreciate this feeling of being drugged up to my eyeballs when reading a book, though I know many readers look on it favourably. It's more trippy than beautiful to me.

Plus, I think the attempts to show how she became mad were a failure. This book appears on lists like "Novels for Feminists" and "100 Books Every Woman Should Read" - why? When this is a book about a woman who falls into madness because she distrusts her husband and their relationship is falling apart. I appreciate that it isn't feminism if the woman is always strong and never makes mistakes, but she basically crumbles because her husband doesn't give her enough attention. Not very believable, and not very pro-woman either.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Ooh, this is one of the books for my classes this year. We have to read Jane Eyre and then I think we read/compare it to this one :3


Tatiana I will never understand the appeal of this book. It's one of the worst books I've EVER read.


message 3: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich I really enjoyed this review, especially as you are the one dissenter for this novel of my GR friends. You make a great point though, and it is ironic how she isn't very, as you say, 'believable, and not very pro-woman either'. JE seemed to be a very pro-woman novel, well, at least I thought so, where she didn't let society or the male opinion bring her down. Funny how one could miss that major idea entirely when expanding on the story. Do you think maybe it is a cautionary tale of sorts and she intentionally went the other route? Great points.


message 4: by Cemre (new) - added it

Cemre Am ı the only one who thinks Jane Eyre was much less racist? Why do people think this is a post-colonial novel ? I don't understand.


Emily May It's because Bertha Mason was described as being of Creole heritage and received no further characterization beyond being the "madwoman in the attic". I was more aware of the way Bertha was treated as a woman, to be honest, but that may be because I'm a white woman and didn't know much about racism when I read JE.


message 6: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily Great review.


Emily May Thanks, Lily!


Arielle AGREE!!!!


message 9: by Maida (new) - added it

Maida Fantastic review! I also gave this novel a 1-star rating (for the same reasons that you so eloquently stated above).


message 10: by Gabriella (new) - added it

Gabriella So sad you didn't like this! I'm ordering a copy ASAP because Good Morning, Midnight by Rhys was the ONLY book in my Women's Lit class that I not only finished but that was also so powerful it stuck with me all these years after graduation. (Jane Eyre is one of the books I never finished) so I'm looking forward to reading these together. Hopefully I'm one of the ones that likes this!


♥HoNeY♥ I'm sorry you didn't like it. But I don't think this could be considered as a feminist novel only. I'm pretty sure this is mostly a post-colonial novel with a few elements of feminism thrown into it.


message 12: by rose juju (new)

rose  juju hi baby you are so pretty


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