Title / Wide Sargasso Sea
Author / Jean Rhys
Publication Date / 1966 (first published)
Star Rating / ★★
This book tells the story of the mad woman in the attic (Bertha Mason) from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. In it we see some of her childhood and than her marriage to Mr Rochester. If you have not read Jane Eyre than I think you may find it a little tricky to understand what is going on. Firstly I was both excited and a little weary of this book. I am kind of unsure of authors taking up from where another author left off, but I think the concept was an interesting one. It is taking a women that we know next to nothing about and giving her a history, making her into a fleshed out human being. I was so excited to read this because Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourite classics and again I love the concept. As you can see from the star rating, that isn’t quite how things worked out.
First up, let’s talk about more the concept. Once again I was very excited to read about a character who is seemingly there as a plot point – we are given no background in Jane Eyre. Rhys wanted to show the descent into madness to show how she got to where she is and who she is. However I don’t think that it was handled very well. I felt that the way Rhys portrayed Bertha’s descent into madness was abit unrealistic and just not done very well. It seemed to me that it was purely down to her relationship – her distrust of her husband and the deterioration of the relationship. To me that just seem a bit disrespectful to both characters to so easily turn to madness, and for Bertha to crumble because her husband isn’t giving her enough attention isn’t realistic to me. I know it is supposed to be a feminist piece of work for giving voice to Bertha but I don’t really see it. It just didn’t quite work for me. In theory it is such a great idea, but in practice it just didn’t live up to its potential.
The writing style just didn’t work for me either. It took me an age to get into the book and even then I wasn’t really enjoying it. The use of dream -like visions, fragmented impression and multiple first person narrative creates a disoriented narrative and I personally found it very difficult to engage with. It meant that I felt detached from the characters and the story, so I didn’t really care about what was happening. I also occasionally found it a little confusing to follow the plot – I don’t know whether that was just me but at some points I just felt really quite disorientated. However this is personal preference – I didn’t get on with the writing style but alot of people love this book so maybe it is worth a read.
As I absolutely love Jane Eyre, this was kind of a disappointment for me. I fully expected to love this book but I really had to push myself through this book, even though its not even 200 pages long. So I personally would not recommend this, but I think I am in the minority. I really do not understand the love for this book. I would definitely recommend reading Jane Eyre before this because you will get a lot more understanding from it and won’t end up completely lost in the disorienting story. Once again I loved the idea but it didn’t work out for me.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
See you next time