Wide Sargasso Sea

Front Cover
W. W. Norton & Company, 1966 - Fiction - 189 pages
19 Reviews
Jean Rhys's reputation was made upon the publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into the light one of fiction's most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontė's Jane Eyre.

A sensual and protected young woman, Antoinette Cosway grows up in the lush natural world of the Caribbean. She is sold into marriage to the coldhearted and prideful Rochester, who succumbs to his need for money and his lust. Yet he will make her pay for her ancestors' sins of slaveholding, excessive drinking, and nihilistic despair by enslaving her as a prisoner in his bleak English home.

In this best-selling novel Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

excellent book, very interesting to read.

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

If I were being generous I would say that Jean Rhys has some interesting and complex themes of race and identity in post-colonial Jamaica that she could have developed into an intriguing novel if she had invented her own plot and characters.
If were being ungenerous I would say Rhys has an axe to grind and cares little for the details or nature of the plot and the characters she has hijacked to sharpen it on. She has focused in on a plot detail of the great classic Jane Eyre, seized upon it, flipped out over it and projected her own issues and post-colonial considerations onto it. This tunnel visioned reaction she has taken and blown up into a 200 page often incoherent rant designed to illustrate...something. That Creole women are singularly put upon, victimized and deliberately driven mad by the cruel and chaotic forces of evil white colonialists and surly black freed slaves? That the fecund forces of tropical nature are maddening? That an obscure modernist writer can shoot to fame by stealing characters and themes from a great novel without creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts?
This novel has launched a thousand forums on "the racism of the Bronte sisters" and other absolute rubbish. It's one thing that some people actually get something out of it literarily, but it's being used as tool in the politicization of literature and that is something I cannot forgive.

All 5 reviews »

Selected pages


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1966)

Jean Rhys, 1890 - 1979 Writer Jean Rhys was born in Roseau, Dominica, West Indies. Her father was a Welsh doctor and her mother was a Dominican Creole. Her heritage deeply influenced her life as well as her writing. At seventeen, her father sent her to England to attend the Perse School, Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Unfortunately, she was forced to abandon her studies when her father died. Rhys worked as a chorus girl and ghostwrote a book on furniture. During World War I, she volunteered in a soldier canteen and, in 1918, worked in a pension office. In 1919, she went to Holland and married the French-Dutch journalist and songwriter Jean Langlet. They had two children, a daughter and a son who died as an infant. She began writing under the patronage of Ford Madox Ford. Her husband was sentenced to prison for illegal financial transactions. Her affair ended badly with Ford, and her marriage ended in divorce. In 1934, she married Leslie Tilden Smith who died in 1945. Two years later, she married Max Hamer who died in 1966. Rhys lived many years in the West Country, most often in great poverty. In 1927, Rhys' first collection of stories, "The Left Bank and Other Stories," was published. Her first novel, "Quartet" (1928), is considered to be an account of her affair with Ford Madox Ford told through Marya, a young English woman. In "Voyage in the Dark" (1934), the character is a young chorus girl involved with an older lover. She has also written "Good Morning, Midnight" (1939) and "Sleep It Off Lady" (1976) and the internationally acclaimed "Wide Sargasso Sea" (1960). Rhys was made a CBE in 1978 and received the W.H. Smith Award, the Royal Society of Literature Award and an Arts Council Bursart. Rhys died on May 14, 1979 in Exeter. In the same year, her unfinished autobiography "Smile Please" appeared.

Bibliographic information