Daily Archives: September 29, 2010

Book Review: Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso SeaWide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t believe I’d never read this before! “Wide Sargasso Sea” is the life story of Bertha Rochester (of Jane Eyre fame) from her point of view. It’s so interesting to see things from the mad woman in the attic’s point of view.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Jane Eyre (although I definitely think that I may need to re-read), but I’m sure that I’ll be corrected on any errors I make in this review.

Antoinette (Bertha) Mason grows up in the Caribbean just after the (British) emancipation of the slaves.

Since anyone who has read Jane Eyre knows that she ends up mad, I’m not sure that this is a spoiler, but it’s the tale of her childhood, marriage, and ensuing descent into madness. There are a lot of issues regarding the unfairness of the patriarchy & the sexual repression that was common in the time.

In Jane Eyre, Bertha is written as a not particularly sympathetic character who is mostly a barrier between Rochester’s and Jane’s happiness. It is implied that Rochester is blameless, and even a victim maybe, of her insanity. This book points a different (and more well-rounded character).

The book’s discussion questions at the end did make me laugh. They were such things as “What do you think Charlotte Bronte failed to see about Antoinette’s true character.” Which is silly, since this is a book written decades later (too lazy to look it up) by an entirely different author. Accusing Charlotte Bronte of failing to fully develop a tertiary character seems a bit wrong.

ANYWAYS – good read, especially if you like knowing what happened with those “other” characters. (I also loved “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead,” in case you were wondering.)

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Book Review: Cleaving

CleavingCleaving by Julie Powell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had two very different reviews from two trusted friend sources. I haven’t read Julie & Julia (nor seen the movie), although I always think I have, because I read “My Life in France” which is very different (I’m guessing).

Friend #1 said she really enjoyed the butcher parts but was annoyed with the Buffy references. Friend #2 said the butcher parts made her consider vegetarianism, but the Buffy references made her think of me. (Come to think of it, that doesn’t mean the Buffy references weren’t annoying. May need to ask for clarification.)

My take? I loved the butcher parts and briefly decided that I might need to apprentice myself to a butcher, just like the author (who was really working hard on that whole “Cleaving” metaphor, am I right?), or at the very least, learn to make my own sausages. The Buffy references were cute at the beginning, but got annoying, especially when I kept finding places where really awesome references would’ve been super appropriate. (What? I’ve seen all seven seasons at least a dozen times.)

Overall, I didn’t like the author very much. The way she treated her long-suffering husband was a little appalling. She is a barely-functioning alcoholic who seems to be looking for something that doesn’t exist.

I really liked the first part of the book (minus the stuff about her personal life which was sordid without being interesting), and loved hearing all about her apprenticeship.

Once she finished up at the butcher shop, I found myself wishing the book was over, too. It felt drawn out for the sake of a word count and a pre-existing contract. It certainly didn’t make me want to read her first book.

I’m glad I read it (really, really liked the butchering stuff), and equally glad that it was a library book (although I wouldn’t mind having a few of the recipes).

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