Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

Although this novel is regarded as her most successful novel, I need to point out immediately that I preferred Good Morning Midnight. But of course, I seem to always move to the beat of my own drum. That being said, this novel proved to be exactly what I hoped it would be: a confusing and dark lapse into madness.

This novel is the prequel to Bronte's Jane Eyre, developing the character of the madwoman in the attic, the first Mrs. Rochester. Antoinette Mason blossoms and alternately wilts in three sections depicting her childhood, married life and death. She is a rich, white Creole heiress, yet her family is despised in their Caribbean town. She lives a complicated childhood, which ultimately dictates her future. When she is married to the unnamed Englishman, the dark secrets of her past begin to come out. Her husband, the presumed Mr. Rochester, decides that he has become bewitched by Antoinette and denies her the love that she thought she had before their honeymoon is over. Her past dictates her future and by the third section of the novel she has collapsed into her lonely madness, isolated and relocated to England.

The voice of this text is the strong stream of consciousness that I connected with in her first novel. The first section follows the childlike innocence of young Antoinette, the second section follows Rochester, and the third returns back to Antoinette - older, married, and completely mad. Regardless of the speaker in the novel, the stream remains completely open to the character, and the reader is able to connect and understand exactly what the person is feeling.

I give this novel a 2/5. I think that I wanted to love this novel a lot more then I actually did. I first fell in love with Rhys when I read Good Morning Midnight because of not only the dark and eloquent voice, but also the story. Something in the story was missing from this novel, even though the voice was still present. I think that if I had enjoyed Jane Eyre slightly more, this novel would have provided more fascinating subject matter for me.

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