1001 Books to Read Before You Die (Sort-Of) Challenge #152

Wide Sargasso Sea 3“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” – Jean Rhys

I spent more time trying to locate a copy of Wide Sargasso Sea than I did reading it (finally found a decent copy at a used book store; it’s a twentieth century classic so I don’t know why there isn’t at least one copy in every bookstore around). I first became aware of the novel while working in an undergraduate literature class on influential women writers. I tend to come down hard on novels that lift characters from classics and tell their new or continuing story. Mostly, those sentiments are directed towards the multitude of “sequels” to Jane Austen’s novels that have taken over bookstore shelves in the last ten years. But the approach in Wide Sargasso Sea is one that I actually have a great deal of respect for and what Jean Rhys was able to do in the novel is amazing.

While I appreciate the way she was able to address what was happening in the colonies of the West Indies through the character of Bertha, the “madwoman” in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s famous Jane Eyre, I wish that I had the chance to read it as part of one of my college courses. I couldn’t help but feel it’s a book that needs to be read and discussed with people in that kind setting. There are so many aspects of the story that I just know I ended up overlooking. I at least wish that I had chosen to re-read Jane Eyre first but alas, I didn’t and I had to settle for what I could remember after almost fifteen years (but Jane Eyre was never one of my favorites; I never understood the appeal of Rochester and try my best not to judge Jane for going back to him).

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3 thoughts on “1001 Books to Read Before You Die (Sort-Of) Challenge #152

  1. Siobhan says:

    I ended up reading this because I kept coming across it EVERYWHERE but that might be because the UK still has a Jean Rhys fetish. I never understood the Rochester thing either, and then I saw the film adaptation with Michael Fassbender playing Rochester at Christmas and thought, well…. Don’t worry- I know I should be ashamed of myself 🙂

    • Lauryn E. Nosek says:

      I haven’t seen that adaptation yet but when I saw Toby Stephens’ portrayal in the miniseries a few years back I kind of went, “Well, okay Jane. I kind of get it but it’s still not something I would ever do if I were you.”

      • Siobhan says:

        Ah you need to check it out 🙂 I think it cast Rochester in a much better light than the books and St John Rivers was definitely a little bit creepy!

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