1 November 2019 Susannah

Jean Rhys & ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’

For me, the major fascination of this book comes from its relationship to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a novel I love. Are you about to read Wide Sargasso Sea for the first time? I hope you’ll find it helpful to learn more about the very strange woman who wrote it, its connections with Brontë’s classic, and its depiction of an exotic Caribbean island and its problems.

The gestation period of this novel was an especially long one. Jean Rhys started it in 1939 after reading Jane Eyre, a book she’d read when young but had not revisited for many years. She felt the tale badly needed re-telling from the Creole perspective. In 1957 she signed a contract for the book, but it was nine years before she delivered the manuscript. In 1966 Wide Sargasso Sea was published and it won the prestigious W.H. Smith Literary Award the following year. I do hope you enjoy this different and intriguing novel.

Time magazine named Wide Sargasso Sea as one of the “100 Best English-language Novels since 1923’, and Modern Library’s ‘100 Best Novels’ ranks it at 94. GoodReads called it “a masterpiece of modern fiction” and the New York Times book review pronounced it a “tour de force”. Do you agree?

I find it a troubling, controversial novel – it makes me think about fiction, about Jane Eyre, about the position of women, and about colonialism and integration of different races, but I don’t LOVE it. I’d be interested to know how you respond to this thought-provoking book. Let me know in your comments.

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Header image credit- Karina Lombard and Nathaniel Parker in Wide Sargasso Sea (1993), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108565/

Comments (2)

  1. Brian Doyle

    Yes I read it last year and thought it was superbly written and linked itself so cleverly to the original novel, I thought I didn’t love it enough to put it in my re- read section but then changed my mind after reading Jane Eyre again and then a collection of Jean Rhys short stories and then Jean Rhys Life and Work by Carol Anger, and what a life it was, with books piling up I haven’t got back to it yet but your timely reminder Susannah has given me a nudge to do so.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I don’t LOVE it, but I do find it intriguing. And it was definitely worth a re-read.

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