WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys | Review

“Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.”   {Goodreads}

As discussed in a past Classic Couple post, I have finally read Jean Rhys’s famous prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. First published in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea is the story of what happened to Antoinette–otherwise known as Bertha Mason–who we only ever meet as the “madwoman in the attic” in the classic Victorian novel. Here Rhys turns what we think we know about this story on its head, providing an alternative look at what may have really happened to the first wife of Mr. Rochester.

What I love about this novel is that it unabashedly exposes the layers of racism, colonialism, and sexism present in Jane Eyre. Rhys does this largely by playing around with perspective. The novel begins by focusing on the experience of Antoinette, showing the reader that she is an intelligent, rational, emotional human being with family, desires, and fears just like anyone else. Rhys then switches the focus to that of Rochester, revealing the inner workings of his prejudiced mind. Rochester openly admits to the reader that he hoped Antoinette would become “more English” through marriage to him and that he is disappointed when she doesn’t change in this way. By switching perspectives, we see that Antoinette is not the one who is “crazy”; rather, the real “madwoman in the attic” is the “Bertha” figure that Rochester portrays her as in order to get what he desires.

Another major strength of the novel is the way Rhys seamlessly ties it into Jane Eyre without being glaringly obvious or over-the-top about it. The final few pages of the novel place Antoinette in the attic of Thornfield Hall, yet she is not portrayed as Rochester would have her represented. Instead, she longs for the past that she used to have and the future that Rochester ripped away from her with this twist in their distorted marriage. Jane is presented as more of a ghost than Antoinette, the two-dimensional figure that we only hear about but don’t really know. Instead, the reader can’t help but empathize with this woman who was torn from everything she knew simply because Rochester didn’t like her non-English background and customs. In this way, Rhys connects her novel with that of Charlotte by suggesting an alternate reading of one of its characters rather than entirely changing the classic’s story. 

With that being said, it feels as though Wide Sargasso Sea does invite us to go back and read Jane Eyre with this new perspective in mind. In fact, I think it would be a great idea to teach these novels alongside each other in classroom settings rather than simply encouraging students to read Brontë’s novel on the basis that it is yet another classic. I believe that more can be learned from reading these two together rather than apart.

Overall, the only regret I have about reading Wide Sargasso Sea is not having read it sooner. This is a brilliant novel that everyone who reads Jane Eyre should absolutely pick up.

What are your thoughts on Wide Sargasso Sea? Have you read any of Jean Rhys’s other writing? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Top Ten Tuesday: Women Writers I’d Love to Meet

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share a list of ten authors we would love to meet. In the past, I’ve found that the lists I’ve made like this tend to be fairly male-dominated; instead, this week I’d like to focus on ten women writers that I would love to have a conversation with.

What women writers would you love to meet? What do you think of the writers on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share books by some of our favorite authors that we haven’t read (yet). Because I’ve had very little time to read lately and much of my reading is dictated by class reading lists, this particular list of mine could go on for miles. In the interest of time, here are just ten:

What books by your favorite authors have you yet to read? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea

Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre is one of the books that first made me fall in love with classic literature. I remember reading it on a family road trip before my senior year of high school, captivated by Jane’s independence and resilience. For years librarians, professors, and bookish friends who know that Jane Eyre is a favorite of mine have been recommending that I read Jean Rhys’s 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea. This famous response to Brontë’s classic tells the story of Antoinette–more well-known as Bertha, the “madwoman” that Mr. Rochester keeps hidden away in the attic of Thornfield Hall.

Although this Classic Couple is quite an obvious pairing due to the inherent connection between them, there are nevertheless plenty of interesting similarities and differences to discuss.

+ Protagonists. What I love about both of these novels is that they feature independent, determined, intelligent women as protagonists. While Jane must work against the systemic sexism of her society in terms of marriage and professions, Antoinette is forced to confront an even more paralyzing hurdle: being a Creole woman who is considered neither black nor white in a society dominated by a pervasive racial hierarchy. Although Antoinette is ultimately locked in the Thornfield Hall attic as a “madwoman,” she regains a sense of empowerment through setting the building on fire. In this way, Rhys subverts the “madwoman in the attic” trope by showing that Antoinette can be just as empowering a figure as Jane–if not more so.

+ Mr. Rochester. Both novels feature Mr. Rochester, albeit in very different contexts. While Brontë romanticizes him as an enigmatic love interest that ultimately redeems himself in the end, Rhys exposes the colonialism that runs through his veins. As soon as he hears rumors of the “madness” that runs in Antoinette’s family, Rochester no longer wants anything to do with the marriage. It is clear by his racist comments that he wishes his wife to be more “English” and is repeatedly disappointed to find that she remains connected to her family, her past, and her home. Rhys’s Rochester is someone to be avoided rather than desired, thereby turning Brontë’s characterization of such a man upside down.

+ The attic. It feels strange to read about Grace Poole and the attic of Thornfield Hall from the perspective of Antoinette rather than that of Jane. While Brontë portrays the attic as a space that protects the rest of the house from “madness,” Rhys exposes it as a form of confinement that promulgates this damaging, inaccurate, colonial trope. Antoinette’s brief encounter with Jane outside of the attic reduces the eponymous character of Brontë’s novel to a flat figure, just as the character of “Bertha” is portrayed in Jane Eyre. Escaping the attic is Antoinette’s only way to reclaim a sense of freedom, independence, and control in an England that does not even feel like reality.

There is so, so much more I could discuss about these two novels, but I’ll save that for later posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little scratch on the surface of a much larger discussion, and I highly recommend reading both of these brilliant novels.

Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.

What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Jane Eyre? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Jane Eyre and Jellicoe Road

A while ago I made a post sharing some classic and contemporary pairs and since then I’ve been explaining each pair week by week. Today I’ll be delving deeper into one of my favorite classic couples: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road. As you likely already know by now from the countless times I’ve mentioned them on this blog, these are two of my favorite books. Now it’s time to compare them!

Protagonists || Despite the decades that separate them, there are actually many similarities between Jane Eyre and Taylor Markham. Both young women are independent, clever, and resilient. They’re also both orphans: Jane’s parents died of typhus while Taylor’s mother abandoned her at a Seven Eleven when she was eleven years old. The two girls end up being cared for by institutions (the Lowood Institution and the Jellicoe School). Both end up leaving their institutions eventually (though with varying degrees of success).

Love Interests || How could we not discuss Mr. Rochester and Jonah Griggs? Though these men seem disagreeable at first, they are actually sensitive and caring (can’t escape that romance trope!). Though their budding relationships are certainly dramatic at times, it’s nevertheless really fun to read about them.

Hidden Pasts || Jane and Taylor grapple with secrets from the past, both in their own lives and in those of others. Mystery appears early on in Jellicoe Road as Taylor reads the manuscript Hannah has been writing for years. Over time Taylor pieces together the sections that are written out-of-order; however, she doesn’t realize the full implications of the story until much later. For Jane, the mystery comes in the form of secrets she learns about Mr. Rochester’s past. It seems as though everyone has a little something to hide.

Personal Growth || The character development in Jane Eyre and Jellicoe Road is remarkable. We follow Jane as she matures from a little girl into a young woman and Taylor as she comes to understand her own identity and the person she wants to be. Not only are these women brave, resilient, and determined, but they are also kind, caring, and thoughtful by the end of these novels. Brontë and Marchetta didn’t sacrifice softness for strength, which is something I greatly admire.

What are your thoughts on these books? Are there any other books that share these qualities? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

School Book Tag

Today I’m here with the School Book Tag! (It might be Friday, but you can bet that I’ll be doing homework all weekend.) I’ve always been one of those students who loves school, despite the fact that I often complain about homework and actually didn’t like my high school very much. I loved school because I love learning, even though the system of doing so isn’t always effectively designed or executed.

Anyways, you can imagine how excited I was when I realized this book tag exists. Thanks so much to Jamie @ Book Pandamonium for tagging me!!

1. Math- Which book left your head spinning in circles?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Not only is this book complicated and a bit confusing, but the plot itself is cyclical in the way it loops back and around through history and the main character’s past. There are so many alternative story lines that it can be rather difficult to keep a tight hold on the actual truth– if an actual truth even exists in this novel. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it!

2. English- Which book do you think has beautiful written expression?

Because I’m a sucker for beautiful writing, there are countless books that I could highlight here. Recently I read George Watsky’s How to Ruin Everything and was taken aback by the writing style. Sometimes lyrical, sometimes punchy, this collection of essays carries the undeniable mark of an articulate spoken word artist and rapper.

3. Physics- Who is your favorite scientifically minded character?

Definitely mathematician Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. He’s smart, he’s funny, and his refreshing common sense is the only ray of light amidst many of the impulsive, money-hungry characters. (Besides, he’s played by Jeff Goldblum in the film– he gets instant bonus points for that!).

4. Chemistry- Who is your favorite literary couple?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Taylor and Jonah from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta are my favorite literary couple ever. I feel like I mention this book in nearly every book tag I post, but I’m not apologizing! (It’s a sign that you should probably read it ASAP!)

5. Biology- Who is your favorite book character?

My favorite book character… ever?!?! I don’t know if I can pick a definitive single favorite character, but the first one that comes to mind is Jane from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Her independence, solitude, and determination are qualities that really resonate with me (I’m also quite jealous of her sense of humor and ability to come up with snappy comebacks on the spot).

6. French- What is your favorite foreign book?

Over the summer I read the English translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and unexpectedly fell in love with the ethereal writing, the sprawling narrative arc, and the endlessly cyclical nature of the plot.

7. Art- Have you ever judged a book by its cover, even if you weren’t meant to?!

Absolutely. For instance, I love the cover design of The Girls by Emma Cline, but the story itself really disappointed me. I think it had a lot of potential to be suspenseful, exciting, and eye-opening, but it simply fell flat and failed to dig below the surface of anything substantial.

8. History- What was the last historical book you read?

When Everything Changed by Gail Collins. This was actually a graduation gift from my high school AP United States History teacher and I finally got around to reading it over winter break. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for an engaging, comprehensive, and well-written account of the history of modern American women from a refreshing perspective.

9. Geography- Which literary destination would you really like to visit? 

Stepping away from the rather obvious answers (Hogwarts! The Shire!), I’m going to say Cabeswater from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. This enchanting and mysterious setting has never failed to set my imagination into overdrive.

10. Drama- What’s a book that you think has a lot of over-dramatic hype?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Though I did enjoy this book, I don’t quite feel as though it warranted the explosion of praise that surrounded it at the peak of its popularity. It’s suspenseful and has some surprising twists, but I don’t think it’s anything extraordinary. #sorrynotsorry

Thanks again to Jamie for tagging me!

What do you think of the books that I’ve mentioned? What are your answers to these questions? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Book Fangirling Blog Award

Book Courtship-2

Hello, hello! Today I bring to you the Book Fangirling Blog Award. Thanks so much to Grace @ kimmie.gg for nominating me!

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  • Create a post to accept your award.
  • Add the blog award button into your post and put it on the side of your blog as a widget. Visit fangirling for the award button.
  • Answer the questions I have below.
  • Nominate between 5-10 book bloggers who you think also deserve this award.
  • Come up with your own 5 questions for your nominees.

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What is your favorite color? And what character embodies that color best?

My favorite color is yellow, because it’s so cheery and positive and reminds me of summer, golden honey, and tall blooming sunflowers. I think Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series embodies the color yellow best because she’s always optimistic and has a bright outlook on life.

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jane eyre coverIs there a book that embodies who you are? What book is it and why?

Oooh, tough question!! My gut response to this question was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, most likely because I feel like I can relate with Jane a lot. We’re both quite independent and simply trying to do the best with what we have. My second thought was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbita book I have grown up with and that I’ve returned to so many times in search of comfort, advice, and merriment.

Jellicoe-Road-by-Melina-Marchetta_thumbWho is your last book crush and why?

My answer to this remains resolute: JONAH GRIGGS. ❤ If you haven’t already read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, read it ASAP! All of the characters have so much depth and dimension to their personalities that you can’t help but become invested in their stories.

Where do you enjoy reading the most?

I love reading outside on my porch in the sunshine, especially when there’s a slight warm breeze that rustles the leaves in the trees. Perfection. 

What does your dream library look like?

A cozy hobbit hole lined with shelves, complete with a fireplace and comfy armchair in the corner.

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  1. If you could trade places with one character for a day, who would it be?
  2. Do you prefer stories driven by plot or characters?
  3. What is the longest book you’ve ever read?
  4. What character would be your BFF in real life?
  5. Is there a book that embodies who you are? What book is it and why?

I stole the last question from Grace because it’s really thought-provoking and I can’t wait to see how people respond.

Thanks again to Grace for nominating me! Be sure to check out her blog– she’s a fabulous bundle of wonderfulness. 🙂

What are your answers to any of these questions? What do you think of my answers? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Movie Review: JANE EYRE

-POP

I love Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre  more than words can describe. Knowing this affection I have, several of my friends recommended that I watch the movie adaptation- in particular, the one from 2011 starring Mia Wasikowska  and Michael Fassbender. So I did!

June-9

Jane Eyre movie posterI haven’t watched very many movie adaptations of classic literature, so at first I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve seen the newest Gatsby movie, but that’s a more modern take on the story than this one. Would it follow the book? Would it be less or more exciting than the original plot? Most importantly: Would it ruin the book for me? Would it leave a lingering sour taste in my mouth so strong that I wouldn’t be able to properly enjoy the novel ever again? These are all very unnecessary questions to have before watching a movie, I know, but I wondered them nevertheless.

June-10

As per usual, all of my worries and fears were for naught! I LOVE this movie! Here’s why:

  • Excellent acting. The acting in this is fantastic! Mia Wasikowska does a wonderful job in her role as Jane, but the real star of the show for me is Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester. He is perfect! Somehow he achieves a balance between being a jerk and being the best possible person for Jane, and it’s exactly how I pictured Mr. Rochester when I was reading the novel.
  • Time is played with. The movie actually begins about two-thirds or three-fourths of the way through the novel and then goes back to the very beginning of Jane’s story and starts chronologically from there. It sounds a little confusing when I explain it, but in the movie it flowed really well and made it more dramatic. For those who haven’t read the book and don’t already know what happens, it also adds a touch of mystery to the story. Why is Jane making this journey on her own? Why is she in such a bad condition? It begs these questions to be answered!
  • Loyal to the story. Although the movie deviates from the plot a little and leaves some pieces out, all in all it does a really great job of staying faithful to the heart of the original story. No, not every scene from the novel occurs in the movie, but think about how long the movie would be if it did! The essence and core of the story is there, and to me that’s all that really matters.

Jane EyreJune-11

Although I really enjoyed this movie, there are a few things that I thought could have been done differently.

  • Lack of Jane’s narration. One of my favorite aspects of the novel is Jane’s narration, so I was sad when I realized that the movie doesn’t include it. I thought that maybe they would have had a voice over at certain parts, but that never happened.
  • More quiet, reserved Jane. While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but feel as though Jane was a lot more quiet and reserved than she is in the book. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that in the book we were constantly hearing her own thoughts, whereas in the movie we only see how she interacts with other people. Her inner strength did come out in a few scenes, but not as often as in the novel.
  • Abrupt ending. The last scene was really beautiful, but I would have liked a bit more of the story after that. At the end of the novel, Jane wraps everything up quite nicely and I was looking for that same feeling of closure in the movie. The ending wasn’t bad or anything- I simply prefer the conclusion of the book

June-12

The movie adaptation Jane Eyre really was a pleasant surprise! It has made me love the novel even more, if that’s possible! I would highly recommend this movie, whether or not you’ve read Charlotte Bronte’s novel.

Have you read this book or watched this movie before? What did you think of it? Are there any other movie adaptations you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

 

QUOTE: Charlotte Bronte

ZADIE SMITH

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”  ~ Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Yes, yes, yes! Score one for equality, courtesy of the lovely Charlotte Bronte in her classic novel Jane Eyre. I adore Jane because she is incredibly independent and not afraid to stand up for herself and what she believes in. Passages like this are sprinkled throughout this novel, which really surprised me. This book was published in the year 1847- over 150 years ago!! If Charlotte Bronte had these thoughts and was willing to publish them, I wonder how many other women also felt like this?

This quote is very telling of just how long women have been fighting for equality. Although we have made amazing strides since then, we certainly still have some work to do. But we can get there eventually!

What quotes have you discovered recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Book Review: JANE EYRE

jane eyre coverAuthor: Charlotte Bronte

Number of Pages: 548

Publisher: Penguin English Library

Release Date: 1847

“Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity.

She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.”

Goodreads.com 

Jane Eyre is by far one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Its chunky size, impressive reputation, and classical prestige was intimidating at first, which is why I put off reading it for the longest time. If I can offer one bookish piece of advice, it’s READ JANE EYRE ASAP. I definitely regret not reading it sooner!

I have only positively positive things to say about this book, so buckle yourself in for a review saturated in adoration and affection!

Let’s start with the star of the show: Jane Eyre. Jane is quite possibly my favorite main character/narrator ever. I can relate so much to what she was feeling, and the relevancy of her emotions and ideas really surprises me. For example, Jane doesn’t want a man to dress her up in fancy clothing and treat her like his pet. She wants to be treated like an equal, like an independent woman who happens to be married to the man she loves. Judging by the rising popularity of the recent feminism movement, it seems as though many women nowadays share similar ideals to what Jane believes. Also, Jane is often referred to as “plain”, however she does not let that title stop her from wanting to achieve greater things. Her attitude is very much that of “Just because I’m plain doesn’t mean I’m not worth it,” which I just love. Jane is witty, stubborn, hard-working, strong, thoughtful, caring, and compassionate, making her an excellent role model for readers of all ages. 

Another reason Jane Eyre is the fictional bomb is that her narration of the story is perfection. One of my favorite things in books is when the narrator addresses the reader directly. I think it does wonders for the connection between the reader and the story, and besides, who doesn’t like to feel as though the narrator is telling the story only to you? That’s the vibe I got while reading Jane Eyre, and it was fantastic.

The story itself is absolutely brilliant, marvelously captivating, and written in a way that’s extremely accessible to readers. There are countless plot twists that I never saw coming (*cough* Grace Poole *cough*), and not once did I find it boring or dull. The inclusion of Jane’s childhood years helps the reader really understand why Jane is the woman she later becomes. You understand the terrible atmosphere of Gateshead, and the oppressiveness of Lowood helps to explain why Jane appears so quiet and reserved at first glance. Few novels can beat the comprehensive look at a character’s life that this classic offers of Jane Eyre.

And the ending. Oh, the wonderful ending! I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet (but really, please read it soon!), so I’ll just speak very vaguely about it. If you’re looking for a stereotypical, flawless happily-ever-after conclusion to Jane Eyre, then you’ve come to the wrong classic novel. The ending is certainly bittersweet, although it is ultimately more sweet than sour. The entire novel is amazing, but the ending really solidifies Jane Eyre’s position as renowned masterpiece of literature.

Of course, the one thing everyone wants to know about this book is the romance. Was it lovely? Was it believable? Was Mr. Rochester a worth fictional man? The answer to those questions is a resounding YES, my friends. Mr. Rochester and Jane love each other so genuinely for their personalities alone that it made me burst into a silly smile on multiple occasions. Their relationship is not perfect, but it’s just so darn honest that it can’t be anything but beautiful.

Overall, Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre is a pure pleasure to read. It exceeded my expectations in every single regard and opened my eyes to how interesting and dimensional classic romance novels can be. However, it is so much more than solely a romance: it’s a genre-bending tale of growing up, heartache, self-acceptance, and forgiveness with a supernatural element thrown in for good measure. I cannot recommend this novel enough!!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5 smileys. (Of course!)

Would I recommend it to a friend?: A friend? I would recommend this book to a stranger if they asked! This book is a must-read for anyone and everyone, in my opinion!

Have you ever read this book before? What did you think of it? What other classic novels would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY