Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wide Sargasso Sea

Well, to be completely honest, I'm not sure what to say. I still don't really know what to think about this one. Wide Sargasso Sea is certainly a unique book, with a very unique premise. Rhys apparently wrote it as a kind of high-class fanfiction, telling the story of Mr. Rochester's mad wife from Jane Eyre. Perhaps I'll feel differently about the book once I get around to reading Jane Eyre again.

I was pretty excited about reading this book, which might have been my first mistake. I'm not sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn't what I got. Rhys writes beautifully, it's just not quite my style. A little too stream-of-consciousness, I think. I was always interested in the story, especially the gorgeous setting (post-colonial Caribbean islands), but I didn't feel attached to any of the characters. It was written as a sort of "descent into madness" novel, but I could never sympathize with the main character, Antoinette. This may have been due in part to my unfamiliarity with the history and racial tensions of this time and area. As hard I tried, however, I just couldn't like Antoinette.

I remember disliking Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, but in Wide Sargasso Sea I felt sorry for him because he was duped into marrying such a nut-job. At times, I felt like Rhys was trying a bit too hard with the whole crazy thing, if that makes sense. It felt faked in some ways, and pretentious in all others. I felt at once confused, bored, and a little bit offended throughout the first two parts. Once I got to Part 3, I was finally happy with the book, but then it abruptly ended.

I really don't like being overly critical, but this was definitely not the book for me. Maybe I can give it away to someone who will enjoy it more. On a different note, I'm fairly impressed that a novel can feel heavy and frivolous at the same time. Sorry Jean Rhys.

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