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Wide Sargasso Sea

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  65,544 ratings  ·  5,218 reviews
Jean Rhys's reputation was made upon the publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into the light one of fiction's most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Set in the Caribbean, its heroine is Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Roc ...more
Paperback, 40th Anniversary Reissue (USA), 190 pages
Published August 19th 1992 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published October 1966)
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Daniëlle Wierenga I think the most important way to think about this novel is in a post-colonial context. Rochester is a British man, Antoinette is a creole Caribbean w…moreI think the most important way to think about this novel is in a post-colonial context. Rochester is a British man, Antoinette is a creole Caribbean woman (White, yes, but not accepted by other Europeans). Rochester lusts for Antoinette, but also feels he must control her. He hates the Caribbean and doesn't want to be there. By controlling Antoinette, he controls this foreign place, just as the British controlled and ruled over their colonies.

People who grew up in these colonies, like Jean Rhys, know that colonial rule was not the golden age for them that it was for the Europeans who gained so much wealth. It was brutal, abusive, and exploitative. It was also exemplified by a licentious greed and a need to consume and control. That doesn't mean all colonies hate the powers that once ruled over them and see them as evil. It's a complicated relationship, like that of Rochester & Antoinette. He wants to make her an English woman, but she could never be that. It drives her mad. No matter how hard the British tried, none of their colonies became the copies of themselves that they wanted.

It's totally possible that the young Rochester of Rhys's novel and the old Rochester of Jane Eyre are the same person. He did something horrible, something he knew was horrible, to Antoinette. He now has to live with the consequences. Maybe he learned. Maybe he didn't. In England it doesn't matter. That's his comfort zone. When he's in it, he's charming and brooding. When he's out of it, he's manipulative and unstable. I think that people upset about this duality have romanticized Rochester too much. (less)
Caffeinated Optimist No, you should read Jane Eyre first. Even though you may enjoy this book without understanding the history of Jane Eyre, you will not grasp the depth …moreNo, you should read Jane Eyre first. Even though you may enjoy this book without understanding the history of Jane Eyre, you will not grasp the depth of emotions expressed without understanding what happened in Jane Eyre. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Manny
Reader, I married him first.
Sean Barrs
Nov 09, 2016 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
...more
Tatiana
Jun 09, 2009 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
...more
Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily May by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
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
...more
Jaidee
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that like their literature poetic and nebulous
Recommended to Jaidee by: a beautiful ex girlfriend as fiery as Antoinette herself
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "erratic, ecstatic and hypnotic" stars !!

4th Favorite Read of 2017 (Tie)


This book is such a wonderful dark counterpoint to Jane Eyre. I was inspired to write a poem rather than a review and I hope you enjoy it


Antoinette

Antoinette by day, Bertha by twilight
The white cockroach of Coulibri
Bold & Beautiful
Mad and Fiery as Hades

Daughter of slaveowner, philanderer, villain
Mired in mayombe and voodoo
and the saints of the dark godesses
on the isle of Jamaica

Nineteen lovers or was it ninety nine
No matt
...more
Petra-X
I read this book years ago and loved it as much as Jane Eyre of which this book was the prequel. I also wrote a review years ago but it not only disappeared, the edition was changed. How do these things happen? There is very little about the book in the following. But quite a bit about Dominica and Sargasso and a little of Jean Rhys herself.

Years ago I used to go to Dominica, I stayed in three places. Firstly was an old Great House in Roseau, the capital, Cherry Orchard which wasn't it's origina
...more
Violet wells
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been convinced I've read Jane Eyre. I've even rated it here. I also thought I had at some point in my life seen a film adaptation. But the further I ventured into this retelling of Charlotte Bronte's novel the more I found myself doubting the veracity of this assumption. Finally, I had to own up to never having read Jane Eyre. This came as a bit of a shock, as it always does when we discover we have invented a memory. No doubt I once fibbed, not wanting to embarrass myself as being p ...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie”, was so terrific that I ordered two more books by Jean Rhys to read.
“Good Morning, Midnight”, - will be next to read...

“Wide Sargasso Sea”, was Rhys most famous book.... quoted as a masterpiece...bringing the fascinating character- Antoinette Cosway- from Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”, out of the dark attic...and putting her center stage.
I agree - the entire concept for this book was brilliant- fascinating- and it worked.
What an incredible risk, Rhys made!! Truly
...more
Rowena
Jun 06, 2013 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.
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
411. Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (1890 – 1979)
Characters: Antoinette Cosway, Tia, Aunt Cora, Grace Poole, Richard Mason, Annette Cosway, Pierre Cosway, Mr Mason, Christophine, Godfrey, Edward Rochester
Abstract: Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. But soon after their marriage, rumors of madness in her family poison his mind against her. He forces Antoinette to conform to his
...more
Michael
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, recs
Hazy and full of dread, Wide Sargasso Sea fleshes out the character of Antoinette, the first wife of Rochester from Jane Eyre. Set in Jamaica shortly after the abolition of slavery, the novel follows from birth to death the heroine, a French creole woman of the former planter class who finds herself estranged from white and Black communities alike because of her fraught social identity. In lush, fragmented prose Rhys begins and ends the story from the perspective of Antoinette, who speaks ellipt ...more
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
...more
Jean-Luke
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Forgive me, Dear Reader, for this rather shocking confession, but this Reader has never read Jane Eyre. As a lover of Literature (I guess for the time being I should demote myself to ‘so-called lover of Literature’) I stand before you hanging my head in shame (just ignore the fact that there’s a book laying in my lap). It seems to be a rather troubling trend as before this I read J.M. Coetzee’s Foe, without ever having read Robinson Crusoe..

So, having never read JE, how can it be that I simply a
...more
Cecily
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: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), 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
...more
Fabian
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.) & 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 expe ...more
Dolors
May 19, 2013 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
...more
Rakhi Dalal
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haunting

Oct.11,1964

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 th
...more
Matthew
I don't think I really understood this book at first, but after I finished it, I went looking around online for more info about it and it clicked. This book is a prequel to Jane Eyre to be read after you read Jane Eyre. Reading it before you read Jane Eyre will probably spoil some of it for you. Also, as a stand alone book without referrence to Jane Eyre, I don't think it is a particularly interesting book.

The story for me was a bit flat. I didn't fully understand the motivation of the character
...more
Mutasim Billah
“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. But first, first I will destroy your hatred. Now. My hate is colder, stronger, and you’ll have no hate to warm yourself. You will have nothing.”

And that pretty much sums up the story. Wide Sargasso Sea is a tale of passion, and madness. Its a story from a time when slavery was abolished and slave traders were shunned from the community in Jamaica. A little
...more
Caroline
***SPOILERS HIDDEN***
***NO JANE EYRE SPOILERS***

Published 119 years after Jane Eyre, the famous classic that inspired it, Wide Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys’s attempt to give Bertha Mason (here going primarily by the name “Antoinette Cosway”) a detailed back story. A fan of Jane Eyre since I first read it in ninth grade and a fan of the movie version of Wide Sargasso Sea, I greatly looked forward to reading this book. I want to stress how crucial it is to read Jane Eyre before starting this. There's
...more
Cheryl
"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
...more
Duane
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
Kevin Ansbro
"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere."
-Hazel Rochman.

Jean Rhys was a post-colonial writer, who lived in the Caribbean and identified with the plight of former plantation slaves for whom emancipation didn't offer the freedom it promised.

This, an innovative sequel to Jane Eyre, is a raw depiction of life in the steamy underbelly of post-colonial Jamaica.
At times an astonishing read, Rhys gives voice to the subjugated
...more
Jenn(ifer)
Aug 24, 2012 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
...more
Paul
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Aubrey
4.5/5
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,
...more
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 an
...more
Seemita
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
Zanna
Jul 29, 2013 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
...more
Sara
Jul 20, 2015 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
...more
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Catching up on Cl...: Wide Sargasso Sea-No Spoilers 50 84 Jun 17, 2019 05:37PM  
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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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