A Reader's Guide to Jean Rhys and 'Wide Sargasso Sea'
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For me, the major fascination of this book comes from its relationship to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a novel I love. Have you just 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.
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.
The gestation period of this novel was an especially long one. Jean Rhys started 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.
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Featured image credit- Karina Lombard and Nathaniel Parker, Wide Sargasso Sea, 1993 Laughing Kookaburra Productions movie adaptation, [cropped] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108565/
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