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Group Read Discussions > July 2018--Wide Sargasso Sea *SPOILERS*

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message 1: by Jasmine, Gatekeeper of Giveaways. (new)

Jasmine | 1223 comments Mod
The book picked by our group to read for July 2018 was Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This is the Spoilers thread. Happy Reading!


message 2: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments I started the book this afternoon, so far, I like it. I didn't know anything about the author and this story before starting it, just as I like!
I would just add something which is not a spoiler, but which is mentioned quite late in the book, and it bothered me: the era of the story: Antoinette was born in 1839. I would have liked to know it in the first pages, so I thought maybe another reader would be happy to know about it too...

It's maybe not the kind of writing I prefer, but it suits the heroine and her story she's telling - it's modest and violent, it's an interesting view.


message 3: by Sydney (last edited Jul 01, 2018 10:12AM) (new)

Sydney (slknutsen) A little off the beaten path and an Interesting premise. Just added it to my "to read" list. Thank you, ladies. I am totally intrigued, here.

Oh, and, Gabrielle, I appreciate knowing the setting's date right off the bat. I sometimes spend quite a bit of time figuring out such. I just need to have that anchor.


message 4: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Sydney wrote: "Oh, and, Gabrielle, I appreciate knowing the setting's..."

Thank you, Sydney, so do I!


message 5: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thenightowl) | 2227 comments I read this a couple of months ago with my book group. None of us really liked the book, but there was plenty to discuss. I'm curious what people in this group will think of it.


message 6: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Jackie

I finished the book yesterday. As I said in my review , it's a very good novel, the story is unexpected and the writing is interesting. Although I agree with you, the narrator changes often and the reader has to be concentrate!
This said, madness is not the kind of subject I prefer... Especially just after having read Wuthering Heights, I would have prefer something lighter! :)

You say in your review, and Czarny Pies also mentions it below my review, Wide Sargasso Sea is "compared" with Jane Eyre when you study them in college. I didn't even thought of Jane Eyre when I read Wide Sargasso Sea!
Because in WSS, insanity, imo, isn't a disease, but it is due to the terrible situation in which the characters are and it is also due to the hatred of the men.


message 7: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I didn't like the book as much as Jane Eyre. But I thought it was a great insight into the West Indies culture and it was nice to have a back drop to the crazy lady in the attic.


message 8: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments If I remember correctly, the insanity, in Jane Eyre, was not explained, it seemed to touch the members of a family from one generation to another, it was a disease that we did not know no one was able to treat and that was hidden.
This is, in my opinion, not the same thing in Wide Sargasso Sea: Antoinette is neither sick nor crazy. Antoinette sinks into madness only after a life far too tormented. Her childhood is traumatic but she seems to overcome it during her years at the boardingschool - convent. Her equilibrium remains fragile, and how else could it be after all the terrible things she has seen? I think it's her husband who drives her into insanity, because he makes her lose all confidence in herself and he hates her.
Insanity is present in JE and in WSS, but it has nothing to do. I'm sure if Antoinette had had loving and reassuring people around her, she wouldn't have ended the way the did.
Often in the novel she says she looks for security, but her husband gives her the contrary.


message 9: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 476 comments I hated this book. It is supposed to be a prequel to Jane Eyre. Antionette is Jane Eyre's mad woman in the attic. Yet I could not recognize any real connection.


I think this booked tried to explain the madness but did badly. I think the story would have been much better with out the attempt to link it to Jane Eyre. It could have been used to tell Antoinette's complete story. It just seemed they tried to fi it in a frame .


message 10: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Renee wrote: "I hated this book. It is supposed to be a prequel to Jane Eyre. Antionette is Jane Eyre's mad woman in the attic. Yet I could not recognize any real connection."

I read this book in French, and nowhere it is said that there's a connection done or to be done with Jane Eyre. So I read it for itself, and I'm happy I did, because it seems that this "connection with JE" disturbs the way some of you read it.


message 11: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 698 comments It seems to me less a prequel to Jane Eyre--a term that presupposes fidelity to the previously written book--than a sort of debate with JE. Rhys believes that Rochester is responsible for her madness, and she tailors her plot to reflect that. Giving Bertha/Antoinette a rich backstory was interesting, but the parts that connect to JE feel more didactically driven and don't work as well for me. I personally agree that Rochester could easily drive a woman to madness, as can ripping a person out of the only world they have ever known and transplanting them to a bewildering place full of unfamiliar rules, but that story could have been better told.


message 12: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 476 comments I agree Abagail. The lack of fidelity to the original story is what puts me so off.

I actually felt Rochester was more concerned about her being Creole then mad. It just didn't work for me.


message 13: by Calvin (new)

Calvin Cherry | 13 comments I prefer Jane Eyre but was excited to read the prequel . It was difficult to follow in certain parts, but I felt it did capture some magic that the original went for.


message 14: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Renee wrote: "I hated this book. It is supposed to be a prequel to Jane Eyre. Antionette is Jane Eyre's mad woman in the attic. Yet I could not recognize any real connection.


I think this booked tried to expl..."


When you say there was no connection, what about the section that happens in England?

The copy I read had a lot of additional materials: introduction and commentary. I think it can be appreciated more with an understanding of Jean Rhys.


message 15: by Connie (new)

Connie (connier) | 52 comments I read this in a day, but really didn't enjoy it that much. I did like the description of Jamaica and all the foliage and how everything looked. I could almost smell the flowers as the description made that island come to life for me.

I guess I didn't think Antoinette was mad until I was almost done. I think she became mad because of the way she was treated from a very young child.

I know this is considered a classic, but I have read better classics in my time.


message 16: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Abigail wrote: "It seems to me less a prequel to Jane Eyre--a term that presupposes fidelity to the previously written book--than a sort of debate with JE. Rhys believes that Rochester is responsible for her madne..."

If I may, I don't agree, Abigail. I found the story well written.
The different narrators are interesting. First Antoinette tells, from childhood to marriage, so the reader can understand that she's not mad, all what she went through, how she felt insecure, one can understand that! except when she's in the convent: she says she appreciate the security even if it means less freedom. Out of the convent, suddenly married to an unknown man, she's ready to love him, all she asks him is to keep her in security. So we can see that she's not mad.
Then Rochester: he says he hate his father who loved only the elder brother. As he can't say anything to his father, or hurt him back, it's clear that he takes his revenge on Antoinette.
Then in England, as Antoinette became mad because of her husband bad treatment, she can't clearly tell us what the situation is, so the woman who is in charge of her continues the story.
I still think Antoinette is not mad even at the end, maybe she's given too much drugs or alcohol, because she understand that she's kept in secret, even if she doesn't believe she's in England, or doesn't want to believe it. And then she knows that the only thing that will save her from this terrible life is death.
I'm sure if Antoinette had had a good husband instead, she could have lived in peace, because she "survived" her childhood and her mother and all the awful things she saw.


message 17: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Connie wrote: "I read this in a day, but really didn't enjoy it that much. I did like the description of Jamaica and all the foliage and how everything looked. I could almost smell the flowers as the description ..."

I agree, the atmosphere of the country was lively. And I agree with Antoinette not being mad first.


message 18: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I agree. I loved this book before (and am re-reading it much older) because of the tie to the GAR book Jayne Eyre. I read it the first time because while I loved Jayne Eyre as a book, I did not care for Rochester and always wondered about the "mad wife."


message 19: by Lisa (new)

Lisa One of my favorite books of all time! Love it and can't wait to re-read.


message 20: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Macaire | 24 comments I'm having trouble getting into it, but it could just be it's a particularly hectic time for me, and since I'll be on vacation in two weeks, it might be better to wait until I can concentrate. There are two kinds of books for me - those that grab me and that I can read anywhere, anytime - and those that I have to really concentrate on - I have to admit, I enjoy both kinds, so it's not a reflection on the book! :-)


message 21: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I finished and it was an OK read this time. Shows you, though, that timing is everything with books. I loved this book when I read it as a young adult/ mother of young children.


message 22: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 698 comments That has happened to me a lot with favorite reads of my youth, Bonnie! And I always regret having reread. From Villette to The Yellow Wallpaper and Mrs. Dalloway to The Black Arrow, I should have left well enough alone.


message 23: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 476 comments The part in England just seemed tacked onto the book. It felt like it was anafterthought. It jus din't work for me.


Kirsten wrote: "Renee wrote: "I hated this book. It is supposed to be a prequel to Jane Eyre. Antionette is Jane Eyre's mad woman in the attic. Yet I could not recognize any real connection.


I think this booked..."



message 24: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) I'm not reading along ... I read it back in 2015 for my F2F book club and was not a fan (2**). But I'm finding this discussion fascinating.

You can see My review HERE


message 25: by Holly (new)

Holly (hollymlyon) | 19 comments I did not enjoy the book at all, however I did like how the author made some of the characters ambiguous in their motives. For example Christophine I couldn't really decide if she really cared about Antoinette or if she was after something else like Antoinette's money or something of that nature. I had this feeling regarding all the servants and some of the her relatives. I also did not she was crazy, she just lost it with some of the abuse and chaotic world she had been born into.


message 26: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I also just realized I have another Rebecca tied book on my shelf called Rebecca's Tale. Kind of a sequel but not by the author. I can't remember now if I've read it or not.


message 27: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Holly wrote: "I did not enjoy the book at all, however I did like how the author made some of the characters ambiguous in their motives. For example Christophine I couldn't really decide if she really cared abou..."

Christophine is a servant, she was also Antoinette's nanny. It is often a dilemma for these people: they like the children entrusted to them, they give them advices and guide them because they are older; but at the same time they remain at a rank of servitude. Their work involves a salary, but it also involves their heart. It's a delicate position for Christophine.
Furthermore, Christophine's belief is totally different from that of Antoinette and her family.


message 28: by Sandi (new)

Sandi Madore | 2 comments I didn't care for this book at all. I think knowing what eventually came of the characters didn't work for me. Also, the light it shed on Mr. Rochester exposed a cruelness in him that perhaps wasn't revealed as clearly in JE. Certainly Antoinette is the sympathetic character. Her life seems composed of one unhappiness leading to another and of course eventually to her death. Perhaps the summer wasn't the best time for such a dark tale?


message 29: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 698 comments Perhaps Rochester's cruelty in Jane Eyre is made more palatable for the reader because we buy into the fantasy that Jane can ultimately "manage" him, whereas Bertha/Antoinette is more fully his victim. For me, both narratives are pretty equally unpalatable! With apologies to any Jane Eyre fans out there.


message 30: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I think men taking advantage of the way things were (patriarchal) was true in both books. I do agree, though, that Rochester's weakness and neediness at the end made me better with Jane's sticking with him.


message 31: by Holly (new)

Holly (hollymlyon) | 19 comments Gabrielle wrote: "Holly wrote: "I did not enjoy the book at all, however I did like how the author made some of the characters ambiguous in their motives. For example Christophine I couldn't really decide if she rea..."

Hi Gabrielle,
I see your point. Antoinette to me just seemed so vulnerable as a child and as a young lady. Yes Christophine did love her I think she is the closet thing Antoinette had to a mother and like you said she belongs to a completely different class. I didn't seem that Antionette had a any true friends that were her equals (unless you count the time at the convent). I guess what I got from the book is that there was really no one who Antoinette could trust.


message 32: by Holly (new)

Holly (hollymlyon) | 19 comments Abigail wrote: "Perhaps Rochester's cruelty in Jane Eyre is made more palatable for the reader because we buy into the fantasy that Jane can ultimately "manage" him, whereas Bertha/Antoinette is more fully his vic..."

I agree with you Abigail. I really didn't like Rochester before but this book made it even worse!


message 33: by Holly (new)

Holly (hollymlyon) | 19 comments Sandi wrote: "I didn't care for this book at all. I think knowing what eventually came of the characters didn't work for me. Also, the light it shed on Mr. Rochester exposed a cruelness in him that perhaps wasn'..."

Such a dark tale and such a beautiful setting. When I read Jane Eyre if I remember correctly it seemed that Rochester was considered victim because he was "stuck" with a raving lunatic. I haven't read the book in a while though so might be wrong.


message 34: by Holly (new)

Holly (hollymlyon) | 19 comments Gabrielle wrote: "Abigail wrote: "It seems to me less a prequel to Jane Eyre--a term that presupposes fidelity to the previously written book--than a sort of debate with JE. Rhys believes that Rochester is responsib..."

That is one thing I liked about this book having Antoinette having a back story as opposed to just being an impediment to Jane and Rochester's budding romance.


message 35: by Holly (new)

Holly (hollymlyon) | 19 comments Connie wrote: "I read this in a day, but really didn't enjoy it that much. I did like the description of Jamaica and all the foliage and how everything looked. I could almost smell the flowers as the description ..."

I agree Connie I think Antionette was not mad until the very end.


message 36: by Holly (new)

Holly (hollymlyon) | 19 comments There is something that I did not understand in the story. The part where Antoinette goes to Christophine for a love potion. Was she able to actually make him take it?


message 37: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Holly wrote: "Gabrielle wrote: "Holly wrote: "I did not enjoy the book at all, however I did like how the author made some of the characters ambiguous in their motives. For example Christophine I couldn't really..."

Yes, I agree with you, Holly.


message 38: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Abigail wrote: "For me, both narratives are pretty equally unpalatable!"
Hi, Abigail, you mean, the stories or the writing are unpalatable?


message 39: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Holly wrote: "When I read Jane Eyre if I remember correctly it seemed that Rochester was considered victim because he was "stuck" with a raving lunatic..."
That's what I remember too, that's why I think WSS isn't a prequel of JE, but for me, JE just inspired Jean Rhys this story...


message 40: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Holly wrote: "There is something that I did not understand in the story. The part where Antoinette goes to Christophine for a love potion. Was she able to actually make him take it?"

Without his knowledge, why not?


message 41: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 698 comments Hi, Gabrielle, I meant the storylines. In either version, Rochester is a person who knowingly abuses power, victimizing both Bertha/Antoinette and Jane in service to his own desires.


message 42: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Abigail wrote: "Hi, Gabrielle, I meant the storylines. In either version, Rochester is a person who knowingly abuses power, victimizing both Bertha/Antoinette and Jane in service to his own desires."

Ah, ok.
Well, I don't remember well Jane Eyre, but for me, in JE, Rochester didn't knowingly abuses power, deeply, he's not a bad person, he's just a man of his time.
On the contrary, WSS's Rochester, is a man of this time, an unloved son who takes his revenge on Antoinette and a bad man because he knowingly abuses power.


message 43: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 216 comments Gabrielle wrote: "Abigail wrote: "Hi, Gabrielle, I meant the storylines. In either version, Rochester is a person who knowingly abuses power, victimizing both Bertha/Antoinette and Jane in service to his own desires..."

Gabrielle, you're right. Rochester was a man of his time. In that time, men routinely abused the power that men had over women and children without even thinking about it.


message 44: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 698 comments I understand the times though plenty of men managed to find ways to be respectful of women and honor them even within an unequal dynamics of power. Rochester lies, deceives, attempts to coerce. He is at times intentionally cruel, and explicitly acknowledges his intent to harm. None of this is romantic to me; I was being nice in labeling it unpalatable.


message 45: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Macaire | 24 comments I finished, but have to admit being perplexed. It was one of those books where I was looking forward to enjoying, but for some reason, couldn't get into. I think it's because I need to identify with a character (in some way or another) and couldn't, even though I grew up in the Caribbean!! I did think the writing was good, and that kept me reading. I love good writing. The characters were disappointing - Rochester believing the letter, the way the marraige was arranged ( I wasn't sure I bought that part). But the plot and writing kept me reading, so I'd give the book 3 solid stars.


message 46: by Linda (new)

Linda Ulleseit (lindaulleseit) | 41 comments I very much enjoyed the setting in Jamaica. The story worked well for me. It's supposed to make the reader more sympathetic to Jane Eyre's madwoman in the attic, but I think he story does better on its own. I feel sorry for Antoinette. She's very misunderstood.


message 47: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Jennifer wrote: "I think it's because I need to identify with a character (in some way or another) and couldn't..."
I realize, by reading your comment, that I had the same problem with this story, Jennifer.


message 48: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Dubois (gabrielle-dubois) | 112 comments Linda wrote: "I think he story does better on its own..."
I agree with you, Linda.


message 49: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) Abigail wrote: "I understand the times though plenty of men managed to find ways to be respectful of women and honor them even within an unequal dynamics of power. Rochester lies, deceives, attempts to coerce. He ..."

Totally agree with you, Abigail. When I read JE in high school all my friends were "it's so romantic" and I was the lone dissenter. I thought Rochester was an insufferable jerk (and St John was worse).


message 50: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Zaccaria | 2 comments I felt Rochester to be written confusingly. I couldn't ever get a firm grip of what he was thinking/feeling/planning to do and there seemed to be no clear motivation for those changes in his feelings or at least, clear moment of when those changes really took place.


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