I am often curious about readers’ first reactions to books I love. I just came across this brief response to a first reading of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which I found quite compelling in its assessment of the novel’s “painful beauty.” Here it is:
I recently finished “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys, a book I’ve been reading over the last few months, with many books in between its start and finish. Why? Because I found it so unsettling. Something about her style — its immediacy — is unnerving. I felt I was right inside the skins of the characters, and it wasn’t a comfortable place to be.
“Wide Sargasso Sea” uses “Jane Eyre” as its inspiration, telling the story of Rochester’s wife, the one he married as a young man, the one from the West Indies who ends up locked in the attic of his house.
It’s a beautiful, painful story, plumbing the polluted depths of colonialism and slavery but in personal and particular terms.
It was also fascinating to learn a bit about Rhys, who herself grew up in the West Indies (Dominica) and lived in England and Paris as an adult. Her work was largely ignored for decades but her brilliance was recognized with the publication in 1966 of “Wide Sargasso Sea.”
You can find it here: http://www.poststar.com/blogs/?p=28788&cat=493
Photo: still from the BBC’s recent adaptation of Wide Sargasso Sea.