Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys (1934)

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→

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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)

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→

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Quotes by Jean Rhys, author of The Wide Sargasso Sea

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→

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Jean Rhys, Author of Wide Sargasso Sea

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, considered a prequel and post-colonial response to Charlotte Brontës 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.

Rhys described her childhood as one spent “alone except for books” and with voices “that had nothing to do” with her. Read More→

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Brontë Fanfiction: Paying Homage to (or Starring) the Brontë Sisters

The Brontë fanfiction canon isn’t as voluminous as the fanfic genre dedicated to Jane Austen. The Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—between them wrote just seven finished novels in their short lifetimes, but the lasting impact they’ve had on world literature can’t be overstated. 

For a time, the sisters feared they’d never get published, so arduous was their path to publication. But they, or rather, Charlotte, persevered, on behalf of not only herself, but her sisters. 

The sisters lived to see their major works published in the 1840s, though under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell to obfuscate their genders. These were Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Villette, and Shirley; Emily’s Wuthering Heights; and Anne’s Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Charlotte’s first novel written with the intent to publish, The Professor, came out posthumously, in 1857. 

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