This review and analysis of Voyage in the Dark, a 1934 novel by Jean Rhys, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.
Jean Rhys (1890-1979) is best known for her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, a take on the Jane Eyre story from the point of view of the “madwoman in the attic,” Rochester’s wife, who, like Rhys, came from the Caribbean. It was finally published in book form in 1966 after years of tinkering and after a very long gap following her early novels, the first of which, Quartet, was published in 1928. Read More→
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is the last work by this Dominican-British author. Considered a prequel and response to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, the novella presents the perspective of Antoinette Cosway, the sensual Creole heiress who wound up as the “madwoman in the attic.”
When Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966, Rhys had all but disappeared from the literary scene; her previous novel, Good Morning, Midnight, was published in 1939.
Wide Sargasso Sea became her most successful novel, praised for its spare yet evocative language and its exploration of the power imbalance between men in women, between patriarchal colonizers and the original inhabitants of the Caribbean in the 1830s. It was the novel that rescued Rhys’s flagging reputation. Read More→
Jean Rhys is best known for her last novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, what modern critics consider a post-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Rhys’ novels are characterized by reoccurring themes of exile, loss, alienation, sexual inequality, and enslavement influenced by her identity as a Dominican woman.
Jean found writing difficult and expressed that she would rather be happy than be a writer. She returned to Dominica only once, in 1936, visiting her grandfather’s plantation.
The estate and his possessions destroyed during the 1844 “Census Riots” / ”La Guerre Negre.” The house itself had been burned down by arsonists in 1930, a tragedy Jean integrated into Wide Sargasso Sea. Read More→
Jean Rhys (August 24, 1890 – May 14, 1979) was born Ella Gwendolyn Rees Williams in Roseau, Dominica. She is best known for her last novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, what modern critics consider a prequel and post-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
Published when Rhys was 76 and shaped by her Dominican heritage and reoccurring themes of exile, loss, alienation, sexual inequality, and enslavement, it imagines the descent into madness of Rochester’s white-Creole wife Antoinette (Bertha, “the madwoman in the attic”). It won the W.H. Smith Literary Award in 1967. Read More→
Most artists and writers keep their inner space sacred and inviolate. It’s the core from where their creativity springs. Some keep their inner world more private than others.
While plenty of male writers have suffered from (or have preferred) isolation, this musing will focus on well known female writers. Confinement periods can be an advantage for women writers, as their extra-curricular activities may slow down.
Seeking solitude doesn’t make a writer antisocial. Perhaps periods of quarantines made it easier for writers to carve out specific periods of time where they can work in blissful solitude. A brief look at women authors of the past shows that self-imposed sequestration isn’t such a crazy thing to do, after all. Read More→