Jamie's Reviews > Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
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's review
Dec 31, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 1001-books, read-in-2010
Recommended to Jamie by: Gina P
Read from January 06 to 09, 2010 — I own a copy

I rarely find myself questioning how I'd rate a book, but Wide Sargasso Sea threw me into that little predicament. As I'm writing this, I'm inclined to say 4.5 and mark it as 5 stars (since GR.com refuses to grant us the pleasure of half-stars), but if you'd asked me as I slogged through the latter part of Part II yesterday on a long car ride, I would have said that 3 stars was generous. In short, I'm uncertain where I stand with this novel. I think the first 40 or 50 pages are fabulous, I think Part III (comprised by the lean final 12 pages) is worth the price of admission. Perhaps my adoration of the ending compels me to be kind to the novel as a whole, but I think this is one I'll have to read again before I can find my footing with it.

You don't need me to tell you the story. Jane Eyre, but not. Bertha--rather, Antoinette--talks back, with a healthy dose of Rochester's perspective, a dash of Grace Poole's, and provocative Caribbean post-emancipation politics thrown in for good measure. What if Bertha was more than just the ghost of Thornfield Hall--more than simply an obstacle to Jane and Rochester's union? I found it difficult to sympathize with anyone in WSS, but I suppose if I allied myself with someone, it'd be with Antoinette/Bertha, by virtue of the seeming inevitability of her nastiness. As I said, I loved her in the very last bits of the novel, but there were moments where I thought she was absolutely awful. Though come to think of it, maybe I found her nasty in Rochester's section? That's my main quibble with the novel, actually--not that there are unreliable narrators or varying vantage points, but that it's not always easy to follow. Less stream-of-consciousness and more messy at times, which I found frustrating. Otherwise, I suppose all I can say is that I'm confused and that my interest was piqued.

In short, the premise alone is worth it; the prose is often stunning, though sparse; the novel (or its characters, perhaps) is difficult to 'like' but easy to become immersed in. A truly fascinating companion to Jane Eyre, which I read for the first time over the summer. Shelving it as need-to-re-read, even though I finished it perhaps an hour ago.
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01/05/2010 page 45
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Moira (last edited Jan 10, 2010 02:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Moira Russell I think Part I is some of the most brilliant writing in English in this century. Part II kind of flags after a while -- she wasn't very good at writing men from the inside. But then Part III is brilliant again.

Cari Thank you for vocalizing my own thoughts about this novel which have been ping-ponging around my head for days. I've been struggling to put to paper my feelings, but agree wholeheartedly with your excellent review!!

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