Wide Sargasso Sea (Norton Critical Edition) / Edition 1

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Written over the course of twenty-one years and published in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea, based on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, takes place in Jamaica and Dominica in 1839–45.
Textual notes illuminate the novel’s historical background, regional references, and the non-translated Creole and French phrases necessary to fully understand this powerful story. Backgrounds includes a wealth of material on the novel’s long evolution, it connections to Jane Eyre, and Rhys’s biographical impressions of growing up in Dominica. Criticism introduces readers to the critical debates inspired by the novel with a Derek Walcott poem and eleven essays.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393960129
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 270
  • Sales rank: 164,587
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Rhys is the author of Wide Sargasso Sea and other novels.

Judith L. Raiskin is Associate Professor and Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Snow on the Cane Fields: Women’s Writing and Creole Subjectivity.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 55 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 29, 2011

    Fills Bronte's Gaps - So Much Fun to Read In Addition to JE!

    Rhys¿ Wide Sargasso Sea was a surprising and fulfilling companion novel to Bronte¿s classic Jane Eyre. This novel was introduced to me in a college literature class with the objective of reading Jane Eyre and JE-themed texts. Previous to this class, never before reading Bronte, I had always heard of the mysterious ¿Bertha from Jane Eyre,¿ but never knew her circumstances to the context. After completing JE, I felt Bertha to be such a complex character, but I still felt left in the dark on her identity in the novel. Rhys¿ version of the story served to fill many gaps left to the reader¿s imagination by Bronte. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys takes her creative liberties and runs with them - providing readers with a welcome backstory to the mysterious woman in Rochester¿s attic.
    Like an uncut film versus the theatrical version, Rhys¿ interpretation of Bronte¿s Jane Eyre provides an entirely different viewpoint of Bertha through Wide Sargasso Sea¿s Antoinette. Rhys revolves her plot around Antoinette Mason (Bronte¿s Bertha). We are given a first person account of Antoinette¿s childhood and lonely upbringing, as well as alternate accounts from both R and his first wife regarding their courtship and marriage. As the novel exists to provide more of an identity for Bertha, the story itself is one of how Antoinette struggles with and ultimately loses her identity throughout her character¿s development and in her relationship with R ¿ providing insight into a reader¿s prior perspective of Bertha from JE. Rhys allows her readers to see the humanity the humanity in Antoinette that was not presented in Bronte¿s Bertha. We are given more insight to her emotions and a first-hand access to her private thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed Wide Sargasso Sea, in that I found it to be an excellent addition to a classic novel.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    This book is terrible

    its just crap, dont bother

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2005

    The lucidity and fecundity called lunacy.

    The survival of patriarchy depends on the reduction of the woman to a virtual zombie. Thus, she must rank with the infants, that is to say she must be seen and not heard. Rhys takes her hero further so that she is neither seen nor heard. Her self is infinitely pliant, since it is defined by foreign laws and customs and by the creative imaginations of speculators. The novel Wide Sargasso Sea makes great reading for those concerned with the plight of the underrepresented and the misunderstood minority elements in society. It restores their voice and forces us to recognize that within the deep depths of oppression, there is a fire that glows and waits to burst into flames at the first breath of oxygen. This prequel to Bronte's JANE EYRE is a condemnation of ethnocentrism, colonialism and patriarchy that needs not Bronte's novel to give it meaning. Instead, it rightly reminds us that the knowledge of another's history is a necessary condition to making value judgements. It personifies the lucidity and fecundity of the Caribbean woman's mind which Bronte representS as lunacy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2003

    An exploration of isolation and madness. Beautiful

    Few books have affected me this deeply. It is a very moving account of Antoinette/Bertha's spiral into madness. As a reader you become absorbed; feel her pain as she realises that happiness will always elude her. I had never read Jane Eyre (and you do not need to know that novel, in order to enjoy this)but sought it out after reading Rhys' book. Bronte does not give a voice to the mad woman in the attic, leaving us little possibility to understand her. Rhys gives Mrs. Rochester a voice in her work, but unlike Bronte, she also gives voice to the other side of the story as the narrative is taken up by both Mr and Mrs Rochester. I do not feel that Mr. Rochester is demonised in this book. He finds himself in a situation that is beyond his control or understanding. This book will be of interest to anyone who enjoys a 'good read', those interested in understanding so called madness, anyone interested in feminist theory, and anyone who just enjoys a book that makes them cry! We are used to reading works which provide an outsiders view of the postcolonial Caribbean. Wide Sargasso Sea provides an insiders postcolonial perspective, so would interest anyone interested in postcolonialism too. Read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2003

    A great book!

    This is a beautiful book that takes you into the heart of the characters and of the Caribbean. It is an interesting account of the race relations after slavery. The characters in this novel are passionate, deep, and complex. Some people have complained on here that this novel is a little confusing. Fortunately, I read it in a college English class and had a great professor that guided us to understanding. Otherwise, I might not have understood everything that happened. Many important things happen in this novel that you could totally miss and then you wouldn't understand what really happened between characters. But if you are a really good reader or are reading this book with really good guidance, I assure you it is a beautiful masterpiece of literature.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2009

    Short and sweet....

    I enjoyed this book mainly because I read Jane Eyre right before it. It gives an interesting perspective to Bronte's book! I did find myself frustrated about details that seemed to be missing, and the jumping around of who was narrating. I am thankful it was short so I was done quickly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2009

    An interesting twist on Jane Eyre

    Jane Eyre is my favorite novel and Charlotte Bronte is my favorite author, so when I realized that someone attempted to write a prequel to this novel, I was instantly interested. Rhys stream of consciouness and alteration of the original story keep it from getting 5 stars, but if the story is considered on its own, it is interesting. Antoinette (Bertha) becomes a real person, instead of the lunatic from Jane Eyre, and the novel itself is an interesting concept. I would not recommend this novel to someone who cannot understand stream of consciousness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    WSS: 'horrifying excuse for a book'

    Ladies and Gentlemen, be warned, Wide Sargasso Sea is a horrifying excuse for a book. To understand the story better it's best to read Jane Eyre, although after reading it I was still thoroughly confused with WSS. After I had read Jane Eyre, which I had completely fallen in love with, I had the highest expectations for this book, however I felt it did not grab me and pull me into it, it left me bored and tired as well as confused, and left me feeling empty. Whereas in Jane Eyre I could hardly put the book down at times, the characters and the story captivated me, and I was rarely confused by what was going on. I felt completely satisfied after reading a classic book such as Jane Eyre, which I had heard about at random times throughout my life. Save your money and spend it on a book that's worth while. You have been warned.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2003

    a different perspective

    Wide Sargasso Sea provided a different perspective on the characters in Jane Eyre, in particular Antoinette. It helped me ruminate the characters Rochester and Antoinette, however,Rhys seemed to persecute Rochester by portraying him as a selfish cold hearted man (which after reading Jane Eyre, I think is false). Rhys made Antoinette the victim of this supposed monster. I don't think Bronte wanted to portray him in that way, that in actuality he was not a bad person, but rather his environs and numerous unfortunate circumstances influenced him and his actions. He was the victim in Jane Eyre. ALthough Rhy's style is more simple than that of Bronte's, her book was more confusing, maybe because of the several changes in points of view. Overall though, Wide Sargasso Sea was an ok book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2003

    As a contrast to Jane Eyre

    Having read Jane Eyre first and liking Rochester's character but also having unanswered questions about the first Mrs Rochester, this book was a great insight into Rochester's past. Many people believe Wide Sargasso Sea demonizes Rochester, yet the angle of the book also presents the argument that Bertha was an innocent victim of a young man who fell out of love with his wife. An interesting book, well worth the read!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2001

    Compared to Jane Eyre...

    I read Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea for my college English class. I was surprised by how much i liked Jane Eyre, and started this book expecting way too much . Rhys' style is incredibly different than Bronte's. Put simply, i hated this book with a passion. It was boring, tedious, and at times confusing. I really really struggled to get through it. Bronte's style is awash with wonderful imagery and its very readable. WSS is none of these. Only read it if you're forced to, IMO. You've been warned.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2001

    Moved and Hardly Insane

    On reading the other reviews i noticed 'insane' used quite often. I enjoyed and understood the book very much although i felt Jean Ryhs might have missed the point of Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte was not in my opinion trying to paint a 'hero', but a man, a man full of faults. This books describes a monster..a selfish unfeeling monster. I found this tale of unrequited love and unsatisfied passion and longing, tasteless. Jean Ryhs seemed to have a personal vendetta against Mr.Rochester and the man she felt he represented. If you have read Jane Eyre and are satisfied by the earthly beauty it has and would rather not have your ideas about Mr.Rochester polluted don't read this. But if you are open to some else's point of view by all means...enjoy

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted March 21, 2010

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    Posted February 11, 2010

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    Posted January 8, 2013

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    Posted July 20, 2010

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    Posted May 16, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2009

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