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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