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→
On the subject of classic women novelists worth rediscovering, we could make the argument that ninety percent of the authors on this site are ripe for rediscovery.
Some of the authors we highlight are still read and considered, even if only in the academic realm of women’s studies classes.
These include Zora Neale Hurston who was indeed rediscovered after falling into obscurity, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, whose story The Yellow Wallpaper is an iconic work of feminist literature. Read More→
If you’d like a taste of a classic author’s work but don’t have the time or patience to read a tome, consider the novella form. Here we’ll look at novellas by classic women authors that make great introductions to to their work.
What defines a novella?
It’s generally based on word count of between 17,000 and 40,000, though it isn’t always so cut and dry. The Awakening by Kate Chopin is often described as a novella, though as far as word count, it’s slightly outside that parameter. Read More→