wide sargasso sea

Title :: Wide Sargasso Sea
Author :: Jean Rhys
Completed :: Feb 22 2008
Challenges :: 1001 Books
Rating :: 4/5

They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.

After a 27 year silence and hearing about her supposive death, Jean Rhys publishes Wide Sargasso Sea as a way of telling the world she is in fact alive. In her newest novel, Rhys releases Charlotte Brontë's "madwoman in the attic" and places her on the island of Jamaica as a prequel of sorts to Jane Eyre. Here the reader is introduced to a very young Antoinette Cosway (later Mason due to her mother's remarriage). The book is split into three parts, the first is the story of Antoinette's youth as told through her eyes on the island shortly after the emancipation of slaves in British-owned Jamaica. Antoinette conveys the difficulties of growing up on an island where she doesn't fit in with white Europeans or the black Jamaicans. When violence hits the Mason household, Antoinette loses her childhood home, her brother and her mother loses her sanity. Antoinette is then taken to a covenant to be raised by nuns until it is time for her to marry Rochester a strapping man from England who calls her Bertha.

Part two is told through the eyes of Rochester and his growing distrust of his wife. His mind becomes poisoned to the stories he hears from the locals as well as a man who claims to be the bastard son of her father. When he learns that Antoinette's mother went crazy he is afraid she will end up the same way. Anotinette on the other hand has difficulty understanding her husband's repulsion and turns to Christophine, a servant that helped raise her. She pleads for Christophine to practice her obeah in an attempt to make Rochester love her. This however, goes wrong and Rochester continues to push his wife away. When he is witnessed making love to one of the servants, Antoinette is shattered. Rochester mistakes this for craziness and begins planning to move her quietly to another location and then on to England.

Part three is rather short but wraps the story up quite nicely as the reader learns the state of Antoinette's mind and her imprisonment in the attic. Rhys story telling is excellent. I truly felt connected to the characters and sympathized with both Antoinette and Rochester. The story is haunting and makes me wonder how many women were subjected to this kind of treatment and labeled as crazy when they were probably only suffering from a minor breakdown only made worse through imprisonment. I definitely want to get my hands on a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotter Perkins Gilman, Danielle reviewed it over at A Work in Progress and it sounds like a similar case.

Other Thoughts ::
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posted by Ashleigh @ 15:35,


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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