Read with: Jane Eyre by Charlote Brontë
Antoinette was born into a formerly prosperous family on a Caribbean island. Their fortune vanished, however, when slavery became illegal because with slavery, of course, went free labor. The freed slaves resented the family, understandably, and the other white families excluded them because the mother, Annette, was from Martinique. In an uprising, the islanders, i.e. former slaves, burned the fine old house down (accidentally?) and in doing so brought about the death of Antoinette's sickly younger brother, Pierre.
Homeless now, and grieving the loss of her son, Annette became inconsolable and seemed to lose her grip on reality. Antoinette was "given" (sold) into marriage to an Englishman who was never named. He was desperate for money and married her within just a couple of weeks after they met. She at first refused him, but he convinced her of his kind feelings toward her.
Unfortunately, he is unwilling to accept the signs of island culture he finds in her. Her attention to dreams, for example, her reliance on Christophene who furnishes locals including Antoinette with magic potions, etc. He finds her beautiful but seems to hate her for it. He betrays her with one of her former servants and ultimately takes her to England and houses her in his grand, old, semi-abandoned mansion, never to see her again.
Loneliness and hurt overtake Antoinette and she loses touch with reality just like her mother did.
This book was very difficult to read. It was short and left a lot out -- actions, emotions, everything. Something about it was enchanting, though, and I mean that sort of literally. It seemed to have magic in it in some way. Upon finishing it, I find I didn't really understand what was going on. I think it will be one of the very rare books that I read again. Not that it was good, or that it was so beautifully written, but that it has really burrowed its way into my mind.
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A precious gem of a book, wonderfully written, makes the reader pay attention to every syllable to get the full meaning of what is going on.
I was intrigued by the concept behind this book--Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite novels. However, I really could not get past the trippy dream-sequence writing style. It was annoying to read. I get what the author was trying to accomplish here, but it wasn't really to my personal taste.
A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: "Based on the classic 'Jane Eyre', it tells the story of Antoinette, who marries Mr. Rochester. Spanning across the Caribbean to England, it is a vibrant, sensual novel about how people can be turned against each other."
Rambling and incoherent. Both Bertha (strangely called Antoinette in this book) and Mr. Rochester narrate in a very similar style, which I think is a reflection of the author, rather than of the 2 characters. Much of the writing is done in the voice of the Jamaican servants' patois, which I found really irritating. There isn't really a plot. This is almost like a dream the author had about Bertha Mason. I do not recommend this book at all.
I found this through a post on a blog about prequels and sequels to classics. It answered a lot of the questions I had after reading Jane Eyre and filled in a lot of blanks I hadn't even known existed!
All this and I haven't even said how well written it was and how thought provoking it was. A great read I'd recommend to anyone who likes Charlotte Bronte or Jane Austen type novels.
I absolutely loved this book with its secrets, wild nature and romantic tensions. Rhys does a wonderful job of conveying the ambiguity of the colonists: people who belonged neither to the country into which they were born and raised nor to the homeland which they often never even visited. Antoinette's family is neither white nor black, has lost all status and wealth and with it its identity. Madness is the only possible outcome since they cannot hope to rebuilt in a hostile world that has changed and left them behind. The people whom Antoinette loves the most are all black: Christophine, Sandi and Tia; yet, she can never have a relationship of equals. She must marry a white man who will forever hate and resent her because she is so different. The use of nature is beautiful both visually and symbolically: a lush, welcoming, fertile land that can become crushing, overwhelming and suffocating.
There are passages that could have been developed: time passes in bumps and it's sometimes difficult to understand the sudden change in Antoinette's marriage, from cordial and hopeful to hating and distrustful. The alternating voices can also be challenging to manage, breaking the rhythm of the story. The reader understands the reasons, but the transitions are abrupt. Rhys does a wonderful job of skirting around and blending emotions, but sometimes too much so. The ending is absolutely incredible: it beautifully recaptures the entire novel in one blinding event. Ultimately this novel does what it set out to do: avenge the first Mrs Rochester.
I disagree with Pepino. This book is amazing! The author has taken a character from Jane Eyre that we knew little about and established who she was and why she was that character. I admit, I was a little lost in the beginning, but as i read, this book grew on me more and more and intrigued me. I had not read Jane Eyre prior to reading Wide Sargasso Sea, but felt this book stood its own and made me yearn to discover more about its characters. Read this one with a friend and have a great discussion afterwards!
wonderful sensory descriptions of Jamaica and other WI islands
do not need to know Jane Eyre before reading this
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