Review of “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys

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This novel (novella?) is considered to be a prequel to Jane Eyre, and since I wasn’t particularly fond of Jane Eyre, I was also not looking forward to reading Wide Sargasso Sea. Luckily, Wide Sargasso Sea was much better than Jane Eyre.

I prefer Rhys’ writing style. I enjoyed the use of different perspectives and narrators. It seems much more modern. It was interesting to experience Rochester’s side of the story. While reading Jane Eyre, I was never fond of Rochester as a character. Reading Wide Sargasso Sea only further confirmed why I dislike him (although Wide Sargasso Sea isn’t necessarily “accurate”).

Most importantly, I was able to see the backstory of “the wildwoman in the attic.” Bertha, or Antoinette, is treated with no sympathy in Jane Eyre. I think that reading Wide Sargasso Sea was essential to understanding the character of Bertha, and also the character of Rochester. After reading the novel, I am much more sympathetic to Bertha’s situation than Rochester’s.

Although I am writing about the plot of this novel as though it is actually accurate to the cannon, Rhys did completely invent Bertha’s backstory. It uses the same characters from the novel, but is not based on any actual part of the novel. It is entirely her own creation. The reason I love the story is because it seems to accurately align with the story and the nature of the characters, and it takes readers away from England. I couldn’t stand to read another novel about the bleak English countryside. Wide Sargasso Sea takes place mostly in the Caribbean, and it is so refreshing.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Jane Eyre. I think it is important to read this after reading Jane Eyre, although it can probably be enjoyed as a stand alone novel. The story is beautiful, haunting, and heartbreaking. Wide Sargasso Sea is an entertaining novel, and is basically a form of literary, highbrow fanfiction. Check it out!

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