Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
By Jean Rhys

"I was drawn to this novel as soon as I heard the premise. Rhys, inspired by the "madwoman in the attic" in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, sets out to imagine this woman, giving her voice and thought and desire of her own. The lunatic wife, Bertha, in Jane Eyre is, in Rhys's version, Antoinette Cosway, a white Creole heiress raised in Jamaica and forced by circumstance to enter an arranged marriage to an Englishman. The union is an unhappy one, with both husband and wife caught up in a fever of distrust and discontent. They leave the tropics for England, where Antoinette, already mentally unstable, descends into madness. Rhys writes in lush prose, shifting between Antoinette's and her husband's point of view, illustrating the power of a narrator to control reality. I found myself still haunted by this book long after I had finished the last page."
From the book Reading Women by Stephanie Staal. Reprinted by arrangement with PublicAffairs (, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2011.


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