Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
As far as classics go (not that I've read a huge number AT ALL), I enjoyed this. But as far as all of the books I've read go, not quite as much. Wide Sargasso Sea brings to light a character from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: the madwoman in the attic. Having not read Jane Eyre, this was not relevant to me and I wonder if it hindered my reading experience in some way. It has certainly made me more interested to pick up Jane Eyre sooner rather than later. Antoinette Cosway is sold into marriage to a young Englishman, Mr. Rochester. Their marriage turns sour and she is driven to madness.
I saw many recent reviews criticising the writing style by Rhys, saying it was overcomplicated for the sake of it. I found it to be digestible; this is definitely the first time I have been able to say this about any classical literature. The book is written in first person and interestingly, jumps from the wife to the husband's perspective without any warning. If you weren't paying attention you would think you were going mad. This intentionality could be indeed, to keep the reader on their toes, feeling uncomfortable (perhaps feeling like their going mad) but I expect it would just irritate a vast majority of readers...
I didn't feel a great enough impact. The madness felt too short lived, without a build up and without a resolute climax. I have never read many short books and I believe this demonstrates the exact reason why: how can you write an entire story with a satisfying beginning, middle and end in 124 pages?
I would absolutely recommend this to fans of Jane Eyre as it definitely reads as a spin-off/saga from something more substantial. If you are a fan of gothic classics this would also likely be a hit. I do not consume enough literature prior to the 80s to appreciate it, and am much more drawn into the over the top thrillers that pack more of a punch.
Initial Prediction: 3.5 stars
Final Rating: 2 stars
Publication Date: October 1966 (my edition: 6 October 2016)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Genres: Fiction, Classics
# of Pages: 160