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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

by Jean Rhys, Francis Wyndham
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"A considerable tour de force by any standard."—?New York Times Book ReviewJean 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 Rochester. In this best-selling novel, Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393308808
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/01/1982
Series: Norton Paperback Fiction Ser.
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 189
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jean Rhys (1890–1979) is the author of Good Morning,
Midnight; Voyage in the Dark; After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie;
Quartet; and The Collected Short Stories.

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Wide Sargasso Sea 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bought this for my Nook but received the study guide instead. B & N needs to FIX this incorrect listing!
BetsyPatel More than 1 year ago
After purchasing what I thought was the nook book, I found that instead it was a study guide. Highly disappointed. Can't believe I am feeling ripped off by BN.
HemaG More than 1 year ago
Mr. Rochester and Antoinette's relationship is symbolic of colonialism in the Caribbean. Rochester represents England while Antoinette represents the Caribbean who he colonizes and ultimately takes over, uses and exploits her and at the end, he discards her. He tries to take away her identity by changing her name to one that she vehemently rejects. This is indicative of the renaming of slaves by slave owners. Antoinette does her best not to be deprived of probably the only thing she owns by resisting this: ¿Bertha is not my name. You are trying to make me into someone else, calling me by another name. I know that is obeah too.¿ Rochester uses his power over Antoinette as husband, man and Master. He attempts through emotional means, but in vain to change the Caribbean Creole Antoinette into the English Bertha.

The relationship between Annette and Mr. Mason is a foreshadowing of the events in Antoinette¿s future. Mr. Mason was captivated by Annette¿s beauty and like Rochester he did not take the time to know his wife¿s inner beauty. He does not listen to his wife¿s opinions concerning slave revolt, showing his authoritative English nature, where he believes in white superiority. He believes that the slaves are like harmless children, but is proven wrong when Coulibri Estate is set on fire. Due to his ignorance, Pierre, Annette¿s son who is mentally and physically disabled dies. This sends an already emotionally unstable woman, insane. Mr. Mason abandons all responsibility of Annette and Antoinette after the fire and sends her (Annette) to live with a black couple who allegedly humiliate and abuse her emotionally. Rhys shows the vulnerability of women in this novel and their naive emotional and physical dependence on men.
Allison_Sorrels More than 1 year ago
Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of the life Bertha led before she married Rochester and went crazy and was kept in the attic. The entire story reads very much like stream of consciousness writing and is difficult to get into if you don't enjoy that type of genre. The switching narrators also makes the book difficult to follow, especially since the third section's narrator seems to switch around at random. Personally, I was very interested in reading the book and excited to see what Bertha's life was like before Thornfield, and I was severally disappointed with this novel. While Bertha's childhood explains her eventual desent into madness and the first section of the book is easy to enjoy, the remaining two sections, one of which is told from her husband's point of view, seem to blame Bertha and her mother for her condition. The unnamed male character spends more time running around on the island, drinking and making up excuses for not making his wife happy than he does actually trying to make his wife happy and make the marriage work. I will say this though, after reading this book, I have a hard time calling Bertha by the name Bertha. I'd rather call her Antoinette because Bertha is the name that her husband gave her as a means of controlling her and making her into something she wasn't and couldn't be. The fact that the unnamed male character gives her a new name could also be one of the many things that forced her into madness, but because of the biased narrators, we'll never really know for sure.
DebbieMcCauley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jean Rhys (1890-1979), was born Ella Gwendolyn Rees Williams in Roseau, on the Island of Dominica. Her mother, Minna Williams (née Lockhart), was a third generation Dominican Creole of Scottish ancestry. Her father, William Rees Williams, was a Welsh-born doctor. When she was sixteen Rhys was sent for schooling in England, returning only once, in 1936. Antoinette¿s isolation and loneliness are painfully apparent as she narrates Part 1 of Wide Sargasso Sea. Her widowed but distant mother, Annette, is not a satisfactory role model as having been ostracised by society she is lonely and remote, only reviving when a new dress and social life present themselves. Annette¿s descent into madness starts when her horse, a symbol of her independence, is poisoned, `now we are marooned¿ (Rhys, 192, p. 16), and culminates when Antoinette¿s mentally retarded brother, Pierre, dies when Coulibri is burnt to the ground during a former slave uprising. Antoinette finds her main support from black servant Christophine who, whilst she is a strong independent woman, also fits the stereotypical black female `mammy¿ role. She turns to Christophine when Rochester betrays her with servant Amélie. In her surrogate mother and protector role, Christophine suggests she leave him, `A man don¿t treat you good, pick up your skirt and walk out¿ (Rhys, 1992, p. 100). Aunt Cora is another significant female role model. She opposes Antoinette¿s marriage; `you are handing over everything the child owns to a perfect stranger¿ (Rhys, 1992, p. 104) but as a white female in a Victorian patriarchal society wields little influence. Prostitution is an undercurrent that has a profound effect on the female characters. Brontë, in casting Bertha as promiscuous, insane and violent, reinforces polite society¿s repugnance for the prostitute stereotype, `Bertha Mason, the true daughter of an infamous mother, dragged me through all the hideous and degrading agonies which must attend a man bound to a wife at once intemperate and unchaste¿ (Brontë, 2006, p. 403). In Part 2 of `Wide Sargasso Sea¿, Antoinette¿s husband narrates the story. As a Victorian male, Rochester show signs of emotionally manipulating behaviour , but in a much more predatory way. He is a non-inheriting second son, has a difficult relationship with his father and has been exiled to Jamaica where fever has sapped his mental and physical abilities, `I was married a month after I arrived in Jamaica and for nearly three weeks of that time I was in bed with fever¿ (Rhys, 1992. P. 61). Antoinette has been chosen as a bride for him because of her inheritance. As he says, `I have sold my soul or you have sold it, and after all is it such a bad bargain?¿ (Rhys, 1992, p. 64). Treating her like a chattel; stepbrother Richard Mason offered £30,000 for Rochester to marry Antoinette. Desperate for money and with little option he agrees to his father and Mason¿s scheme, `It was all very brightly coloured, very strange, but it meant nothing to me. Nor did she, the girl I was to marry¿ (Rhys, 1992, p. 69). A Spanish Town wedding ceremony is followed by a honeymoon at Granbois, an estate that once belonged to Antoinette¿s mother. Rochester¿s character becomes tormented by Antoinette, `above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I had found it¿ (Rhys, 1992, p. 156). Shortly after their marriage rumours begin with a letter from Daniel Cosway who claims he is Antoinette¿s illegitimate half brother and warns of the insanity in the family which prompts Rochester to actively look for signs of this in Antoinette. His misgivings about the marriage, hitherto kept under the surface, start to emerge. This culminates in his sleeping with the servant Amélie within Antoinette¿s hearing. Soon afterwards both his father and elder brother die and he returns to England with Antoinette to claim his inheritance.The text explore
bagambo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is brilliant!! Jean Rhys really kicked one out of the park here. A prequel to Jane Eyre, here we learn about Bertha (the woman in the attic). This is the story of the first Mrs. Rochester, Antoinette Mason (aka Bertha). We learn how the two meet and how they wind up married. The book deals on themes such as assimilation, racism (inequality between Creole heiress Antoinette and British Rochester), patriarchal society, domestic violence, and postcolonialism and feminism. The descent into madness that Antoinette experiences can be traced to Rochester's extremely harsh, racist, unloving, treatment towards his wife, Antoinette - his goal is to erase her identity and treat her as nothing. In this book we learn about the woman Antoinette and her life and her dreams and how she slowly unwinds mentally and emotionally upon marrying Rochester and relocating to England. An amazing book written by a brilliant writer!!! It is the perfect counterpart to Jane Eyre.
janemarieprice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a quite beautiful tale of the `mad woman in the attic¿ from [Jane Eyre]. It was very lyrical, flowing along quite peacefully for such a destructive story. I particularly liked reading about the Caribbean setting. Louisiana has a large Caribbean influence and it was striking how many aspects seemed so familiar ¿ from the general descriptions of place to the complex interactions of varying racial differences. Some very complex themes on gender were also engaging. The ease with which women were used by the men in their lives and that abuse¿s effect on the psyche of Antoinette, the differences in English and French law in regards to women and children, and the definition of insanity are all floating around the edges of this haunting tale.
PandoraKnits on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I read it in a day and it was a great story. I'm going to need to go back and read it again, as I think I skimmed some parts. But I love getting backstory, and the character in Jane Eyre was really not explained at all except to be shown as an impediment to Jane and Rochester's happiness. Great read!
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Author Jean Rhys has taken the first Mrs. Rochester of Jane Eyre and written an account of how she came to be in that state. Readers of Bronte's novel will be surprised at the account. The novel begins in the Spanish Town, Jamaica area in childhood and youth and moves on to Granbois, Dominica after marrying Rochester. Only in the last few pages of the novel do the Rochesters make their way to England. It is a haunting novel in which the reader's sympathies move from Antoinette (whom Rochester begins to call "Bertha" after her mother) to Rochester and back and forth again.
ocgreg34 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoy being able to walk around a library and just browse, not having to decide if I want to purchase something. I get a chance to be adventurous, selecting an author I've never heard of before or pulling a random title from the shelf to take home. A week ago, I found one such book: "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys. The title caught my attention because I'd heard of it, but as a movie not a book. I slid the novel from the shelf, read the spiel on the back, and held onto it for the remainder of the hour that I walked up and down the rows. And yes, I did check it out and began reading that night.Antoinette Cosway grows up on the slowly dilapidating Coulibri Estate in Jamaica. She spends much of her time as far from the house as possible, trying to keep to herself but also longing to be accepted by the newly-freed former slaves who see her as lower than they ever were. Her step-father stays away from the estate, much to the disappointment of her mother, and along with his absences and the distrust of the locals, she slowly goes mad. Antoinette's life changes -- for the better and the worse -- when Coulibri is burned to the ground forcing her into a convent while her mother is institutionalized.Many years later, Antoinette's step-father returns to arrange a marriage for her to a young Englishman. The Englishman, however, wants only a match to bring him wealth and halfheartedly tries to love Antoinette. Instead, he loathes the island, the inhabitants, the house he now owns; he mistreats Antoinette, slowly drives her to madness. Eventually, he packs her up and together they head for his ancestral home in England where he locks her in the attic under the semi-watchful eye of Grace Poole. She manages to steal the door key while Mrs. Poole sleeps, sneaking around the upper floor hallways in the dead of night like a ghost for the rest of her days, sending a rumor through the little girls who live in the house that the place is haunted.As it turns out, Antoinette is a character from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: the mad woman locked in the attic of Rochester's house. I enjoyed this possible history for a secondary character in a well-known novel. Why not give her a back story, a glimpse into what may have driven her to live in the attic? Having never read Jane Eyre, I feel more inclined to now, just to see how Antoinette fits with the story. Who knows: Antoinette may turn out to be more interesting than Jane.
Ambrosia4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall this was a very interesting idea for a novel: take one of the most mysterious characters from classical literature and expand upon her backstory. And Rhys does not disappoint, she brings such a rich and detailed viewpoint of Antoinette (later dubbed "Bertha", as she is called in Jane Eyre) that one cannot help but sympathize with the girl who becomes the crazy woman in Thornfield Hall's attic room.In particular, her identity crisis due to racial ambiguity spoke to me as a biracial woman. Using this as the basis of her illness at a time when race was deemed vitally important to a person's standing was a great take off point for her insanity. While racial differences have become more accepted, the relatively subtle (compared to more obvious displays in other novels) superiority complex of full-blooded whites to coloured and black people in this novel is still very much present in today's culture, despite the obliviousness of many.Antoinette's insanity is very understandable as well. She is literally pushed to the brink and finally cannot bring herself back. No one offers her help and instead of being an evil woman who broke up Jane and Mr. Rochester, tried to kill her husband, and set his house ablaze, she becomes a sad woman who just needed a hug and some therapy. She was just genuinely a product of the times and her environment. Rhys draws this portrait of a woman harmed by society and her surroundings well and develops the Caribbean influences (drawn from her own background) pitch perfect.This was not an easy read with a shifting point-of-view that is often hard to get used to or even identify. As Antoinette slips further into insanity her perspective in particular becomes unstable and difficult to comprehend. There are many motifs and some symbolism that is not obvious, but needs to be understood to get the full impact of Rhys' story.In conclusion though, I definitely recommend it. It's a short book that on the surface can be easily comprehended.
bookweaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Maybe I'm just in a mood, but I am just not that impressed by this book. It's literary and everything, but I just don't care much about the characters. I might just be too tired.
chndlrs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alas, I don't recall who recommended this, so I can't thank them. Wide Sargasso Sea: A Novel by Jean Rhys is a lovely tale all on its own though it also serves as a prequel to Bronte's Jane Eyre.Rhys relays the story of the first Mrs. Rochester, poor Antoinette, married off by a step-brother to a cold-hearted man who gladly assumes ownership of her wealth and her heart, caring only for the former and breaking the later before moving her away from her sunny Jamaica to dreary England. By the time she sets fire to the mansion, you'll be rooting for her as I was.
NocturnalBlue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic. If one is going to write a prequel/sequel/any other "quel" to a classic, this is how it's done. It took a character that was little more than a plot device in Jane Eyre (which was largely to the times the Bronte sisters lived in and their own deep prejudices towards anyone who wasn't British) and gave her a tragic backstory. The novel is wonderful to read whether or not you've read Jane Eyre. Though it only enhances the enjoyment when you get see Rochester through both Antoinette's (Bertha's) and Jane's eyes.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd been looking forward to this book for a while, but in the end I found it frustratingly under-written and half-conceived. Little enough attention was given to motive and actual character that the characters came across as unbelievable and inconsistent, moving from one false start to the next without clear understanding or motivation. It's as if we have the framework for a strong piece of work, but only the framework. In a way, I feel as if Rhys wrote the parts of the work which interested her or involved the most emotion to her mind, and little enough else that we just don't believe it. In a word, I have to say it simply felt uninspired.
sainsborough on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My Caribbean phase continued. Can't add much to what has already been so eloquently said by others BUT I'm glad I read it even if I found it muddled and confusing in parts. My yellowing secondhand copy has an introduction by Francis Wyndham which was helpful in putting the book in perspective.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How many of us, when reading Jane Eyre, actually paid much mind to Bertha Rochester, nee Mason? Her role in the book is perfunctory, standing more as an obstacle to be overcome than a person in her own right. But Wide Sargasso Sea reclaims her identity; she is not Bertha (which Rochester re-christens her as without her input, simply because he likes the name better) but Antoinette, a spirited Creole girl whom Rochester marries on a vacation to the West Indies.It's a story that's also a sharp criticism of colonialism and men's perceptions of women's roles in their lives. Antoinette's character and love for her island get crushed in her traditional Western marriage to Rochester. Soon into the marriage he begins to avoid her, on account of secondhand rumors that madness runs in her family - rumors that could have been explained with a discussion, but no, he trusts the word of men over his wife. Thus his fear of Antoinette's madness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as her feelings of oppression and domination by men literally drive her insane, at least in a "socially unacceptable" manner of speaking. Rochester speaks of Antoinette scornfully, likening her to a marionette, but he doesn't acknowledge that that's what he was hoping for in the relationship from the start.
pj77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is written as a prequel to Jane Eyre and tells the story of Bertha Mason, Mr Rochester¿s ¿mad¿ wife. The story is set in the West Indies and is divided into 3 parts. The first is about her childhood, written from her perspective, the second details her marriage to an English man (who is never named, but who is assumed to be Mr Rochester) during which she begins her descent into madness, told from the perspective of Mr Rochester and the third is during her time locked up in the heights of Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre with her carer Grace Poole from whose perspective this section is told. It was a great read, short, but very well written. Jean Rhys certainly had a talent for beautiful and sensory descriptive language and this was definitely what I loved most about this novel.
gabebaker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know from Jane Eyre, but Wide Sargasso Sea is a gorgeous dream of a short novel. I was most impressed by Rhys' ability to evoke the sensual details of the island setting using concise language. Rhys manages to immerse the reader in the post-colonial Caribbean setting without resorting to wordy descriptions. Comparable to a David Lynch flick.
RoseCityReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am perfectly ambivalent about Wide Sargasso Sea. Every reaction I had to the book is balanced by its opposite reaction -- ¿ The moody, languid prose captured the tropical setting: I longed for a more direct narrative. ¿ The switches in perspective deepened the relationships among the characters: it was frustratingly difficult to track who was saying what and when they were saying it. ¿ The themes of madness, alcoholism, cruelty, and love were fascinating: the characters were all horrible and it was awful to watch them destroy themselves and each other. ¿ The connection between the heroine and the insane wife in Jane Eyre is an inspired literary device; the tie-in with Jane Eyre is a manipulative gimmick.
justine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one makes you think for sure, but it isn't much fun to read. I like the re-imagining of Jane Eyre from the perspective of "the madwoman in the attic", but there have been so much more fun works of the same ilk like The Eyre Affair or even the new Masterpiece Theater TV movie of Jane Eyre or Patricia Roezma's film adaptation of Mansfield Park --all of which put a modern (or post-modern) sensibility on a classic. Also, as I was reading I could not stop remembering the movie "Original Sin" which I did not like, so if I had read the book first my opinion might be more favorable. By the way, the movie adaptation of this one is lush and lovely even if it lacks the book's power.
ZenPatrice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rhys writes from the viewpoint of Mr. Rochester's first wife.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this an interesting concept to explain why Mr Rochester kept his wife hidden from the world once they were back in England. Considering that I never really liked Jane Eyre, I did always wonder about his wife. When you learn about her life in Jamacia and see all the things she endured, you can see how she went mad. The reason Mr Rochester and her married her to get money that his father badly needed, then he is stuck with her and his father dies. I feel that they both were trapped and neither had a way out until she tries to destory Rochester and his home. The fire finally sets them both free. She watched her brother die in a fire and I feel that this is what set her on the same course but hundreds of miles away in a foreign land.
Pete_Bogg1 More than 1 year ago
In case the reader has not heard, Wide Sargasso Sea is the imagined backstory of the mad woman in Jane Eyre, the implacable enemy of the peace and happiness of her husband, Mr. Rochester, a man who bears as much responsibility for her madness as anyone. Set in a post-slavery Jamaica in the 1840s, the novel tells how Antoinette Mason comes to be the first Mrs. Rochester, and why that marriage was probably doomed from the start. Told with superb skill, it is a beautiful and deeply sad tale that meditates on the interconnections of innocence and knowledge, truth and illusion, memory and identity, love and sex, and trust and betrayal. The author, Jean Rhys, has done justice to that poor woman in the attic of the Rochester mansion, who is mad only because the world is mad. It is one of the finest novels I have read, as haunting as Wuthering Heights. Highly recommended whether you have read Jane Eyre or not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago