Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book 84: And...Finished.

"You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone. We are alone in the most beautiful place in the world..."

I read this book in two short sittings. At under 200 pages, it was a fast and manageable length. Sometimes we need that.

That being said, I had to really motivate myself to not put the book down. I knew that if I did, I wouldn't pick it back up again.

It isn't that I hated it. I think what really bothered me was seeing it in connection with Jane Eyre, and so shortly after I finished Bronte's novel. Had I waited and read it a year from now, I might not have been so bitter about what Rhys did to Bronte's characters.

I get the point of why Rhys wrote the novel, and I love the idea that she gave life to a character we really don't interact with in Jane Eyre-the mad wife of Rochester. I like that she gave her a history, and showed us how Rochester met her and how they married. And I do like seeing a little of her dissent into madness.

What I didn't like were the differences in Rochester's character between the two. If you are going to do a mash-up of a classic novel, a prequel, or a sequel, you make sure you have the characters EXACTLY right, or fans of the original will hate your work. Simple as that. In this title, Rochester is a total jerk, with no regard for his wife's feelings. He comes across much harsher and uncaring in this one, which was not my perception of him at all. I can see how having a crazy wife would lead you to be that way, which is why his gruff exterior in Jane Eyre makes sense. But I didn't get it here. I don't know why Rhys made him out to be such a jerk.

But perhaps that is my love affair with Bronte's work stepping in.

I will say that I enjoyed Rhys' writing. There were some truly haunting passages, like the one below:

"'On the contrary,' I said, 'only I know how long I have been here. Nights and days and days and nights, hundreds of them slipping through my fingers. But that does not matter. Time has no meaning. But something you can touch and hold like my red dress, that has a meaning.'"

It chilled me a little a bit, especially after the events that led up to that.

I also love this next line-it is just as chilling:

"Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do."

But even with the writing, something in me just couldn't handle the story (again, why I read it in two sittings). I was disappointed. I think I expected so much more from the story than what I got. BUT (yes, another but), I do think this was an important one to read. I like that Rhys captured the essence of the Caribbean during this time period. The effects of colonization on the location where the story takes place is clear and it was interesting to read about it from a different perspective, which was definitely a part of her purpose in writing the novel.

It just didn't work for me. Perhaps I'll give it another try in the future, but I highly doubt it.


  1. That's why I always always tell people, especially big fans of Jane Eyre, to read this without connecting it to JE. It's a wonderful book, as long as you don't expect Rochester to be like Rochester in personality or fact. Same with Bertha.

  2. Your review was very similar to mine. :) One good thing I can say about Wide Sargasso least it's better than the cotton candy horrors that have been afflicted upon Jane Austen.

  3. The story has such a great and intriguing premise, too bad that it does live up to it. I felt the same way you did about it and the Rochester-bashing didn't help, although I'm actually not his biggest fan.

  4. I like the premise of this novel (especially the fact that it doesn't involve zombies or other creatures), but can see how it doesn't succeed. If you're going to play off such a classic, I think it's really important to stay true to the characters as they were originally written. Especially when you know that the audience will probably be made up of Bronte fans who will notice any changes.

  5. Interesting. I've mostly heard raves for this book. It's nice to hear another opinion. It's on my list but I'm not in a rush to read it. I'll probably end up with a similar opinion to yours if the characters are not accurate to JE

  6. I wasn't a fan of this one either. It just felt off in connection with Jane Eyre. I might have felt differently if I hadn't loved Jane Eyre.

  7. I was going to say that this sounds just like Amanda's reaction to the book....sigh. I was hoping I'd like it. But maybe I can separate it from the Jane Eyre I know and love.

  8. I agree. I liked the premise, but I didn't like the way she protrayed Rochester.

  9. I am totally with you on this one. I loved the idea behind it. I think that a lot was left unexplained in Jane Eyre about Bertha. Not in a bad way - thats just the way that it was. So giving her her own story seems fitting - but it just didn't sit well with Jane Eyre. Rochester was so different. I do kind of think of him as a jerk, even in Jane Eyre, but he is just so totally different in this book. And its so different to Jane Eyre.

    Not a great read.

  10. My biggest issue with this book was the dream-like quality. There were times it was difficult to tell what was going on. (Of course, I say this several years after reading it). It felt so disconnected from Jane Eyre, so I couldn't really relate it anyway.

  11. I read it without having read Jane Eyre and even as a stand-alone book, it wasn't one of the most engaging and readable books. I hated Mr Rochester so much in this book I think it turned me off to ever wanting to read Jane Eyre.

  12. Okay, I'm kinda scared to read this one now. I feel like it will irritate me...

    (I like what Her Royal Orangeness says.) :-)

  13. I had this slated to read for the What's In A Name 3 Challenge, for the category of water, but I didn't get around to it. Now that I know even more from your review, that it's pertaining to Rochester's mad wife, I'm thinking, "Ew." I don't like it very much when an author presumes to take another author's creation and embellish it as her own. Even if this did win a significant award (Pulitzer? I forget). I suspect I'd have a similar reaction as yours.