Saturday, October 4, 2014

Wide Sargasso Sea - a review

Little Miss Horner presented me with her copy of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea at my going away dinner, clarifying that it was a going away loan - I can see why. I had seen and seen referenced Jean Rhys' book many times, but had somehow forgotten that it is a prequel to Jane Eyre, an old favourite. I was also unaware that the titular sea is the name applied to the area of the Atlantic between the Azores and the West Indies - a treacherous section of the route colonizers and slave traders used. It's a region choked with massive weeds and bordered by strong currents. It's an area of doldrums.

Reading this book on my deck in Kingston, Jamaica - as I'm certain Miss H anticipated - greatly heightened my reading of it. Lines like "Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible - the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild" play out on the page and all around me. Taking in the words while listening to the morning sing of birds and tree frogs was akin to a reader's IMAX theatre - my internal and external worlds fully melding.

This is a beautifully written and disturbing book. It splits the narrative between Mr. Rochester and his first wife - the eventual mad woman in the attic. Full of references to zombi, obeah, and ancient 'magick,' not to mention the wickedness people bring upon one another, this is a book I read in full daylight. It fascinated me, but I needed to break from it now and then.

Maybe if I wasn't also smelling oleander. Maybe if the eerie feeling of ancient lives destroyed didn't somewhat pervade this island, it would have been less real to me. I highly recommend this book - just make sure your ghouls and ghosts are far away when you read it.

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  1. I read that one back in Dee Horne's Postcolonial lit course. Ahhh memories.

  2. Ah, Dee Horne. There's a name I'd succesfully blocked from memory. ;-) I thought you took PostCol with me in Karin Beeler's class ... must have been somebody else who helped pass the time on LONG Wednesday evenings. I did think of you while I was reading this - some of the fantastic elements seem right up your alley.


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