Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys : A Book Review


One of the most important elements of an impressive book  is its emotional and tonal atmosphere. There is such physically internal connection between a reader and characters , and eventually the reader gets attached to them, primarily to the  protagonist  because of the impact the atmosphere blends into the background. Such elements work depending on how writers powerfully put them into sentences.

The emotional and tonal atmosphere conveyed in books  imply poverty and injustice , the good example of this is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry; survival in a savage world, Lord of the Flies by William Golding; bereavement, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; the desire to free oneself from discrimination and prejudice attributed to slavery and social classification, The Invisible Man  by Ralph Ellison and Native Son by Richard Wright ;   feeling of emptiness , The Loss of Inheritance by Kiran  Desai; and loneliness  of which Wide Sargasso Sea  by Jean Rhys is  reek- half akin to  the other novels  I have read ,  which punched my heart , but on a scale of 1 to 10 , it is simply the best among them so far . In fact, I cried twice from the middle to the ending part.

The novel has three parts narrated by the two main characters.

Part One

 Antoinette, the protagonist of the story, describes her childhood experience, about her origin, her mother, her stepfather, all the people who influenced her upbringing. At first,  I still had no any ideas of what the concept of the story is, but the deeper I dug the sentences, the clearer I understood  the story .

You’re blind when you want to be blind, ‘she said ferociously, ‘and you’re deaf when you want to be deaf. The old hypocrite, ‘she kept saying.

“White cockroaches! White cockroaches!”

 The story   touches upon the black and the white.

Part Two

 It was a beautiful place –wild, untouched , above all untouched, with an alien, disturbing , secret loveliness. And it kept its secret. I’d find myself thinking, “ What I see is nothing- I want what it hides-that is not nothing.’

This part is half narrated by Antoinette’s unnamed husband   and  the other part by herself.

I already liked this part because I could feel now the ambivalent elements existing in between the two characters.  Her unnamed husband narrates the honeymoon period ; and at the same time , the nature of  Antoinette ‘s life history. On the other hand, Antoinette appears to be strange telling something bad about her unnamed husband. So, I tend to be confused   about who between them  tells the truth .

In the deeper part,  I felt the tears welling up in my eyes when  Antoinette tells about her loneliness, notably in this  part:

“ I was never sad in the morning, “ she said, “ …

“ But you said you were always happy. “

“ No, I said I was always happy  in the morning, not always in the afternoon and never sunset, for after sunset  the house was haunted, some places are…..”

Part Three

‘ Don’t laugh like that, Bertha.’

‘ My name is not Bertha; why do you call me , Bertha?’

‘ Because it is a name I am particularly  fond of. I think of you as Bertha?’

Part of the conversation between Antoinette and her unnamed husband  that gave  me  an idea of why this novel is said to be the prequel to Emily Bronte’s  Jane Eyre.  So,  I found in this part the answer to the question that I nibbled at all along whether Antoinette is insane or not . In fact, there was like  a series of flashbacks as its ending  describes  what Bertha does as  Jane Eyre  is  curious  about the  mysterious sounds she hears from the attic which  turns out to be Bertha’s- a scene that is not mentioned in Jane Eyre. Awesome! So if you want to read it, read Jane Eyre first.

Like other writers ‘source of inspiration , Jean Rhys was  inspired by Emily Bronte’s Jane Eyre on account of her unhappy marriage.

Rating: 4/5 stars



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