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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A Classic Couple: The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I realized recently that I have never made a Classic Couple pairing of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999), I vowed to remedy that situation immediately. This classic/contemporary duo always reminds me of the start of the school year, which makes this the perfect time to write about them here. I’m sure this pairing has been done many times before, but I still think there are some interesting parallels worth discussing.

+ Lost souls. Both novels are narrated by protagonists who are unsure of their place or role in life. In the earlier book, the infamous Holden Caulfield who attends Pencey Preparatory Academy before deciding to roam around New York City for a while. Likewise, Charlie, a fifteen-year-old freshman, uncertainly navigates through his first year of high school as he simultaneously deals with a tumultuous home life. Both boys feel lost in a sea of people and just desperately want someone to understand what they’re going through.

+ Narration. Both novels are told through first person narration of their protagonists: Holden is telling his story from a mental institution, while Charlie writes his letters to an unknown audience. This particular similarity is what most closely connects these texts in my mind. The voices of the narrators are so distinct and clear that they feel as though they could certainly have been taken directly from a teenager’s mouth. Few readers may remember the specific events of these texts after reading them, but they surely will remember Holden’s incessant complaining and Charlie’s uncertain worrying.

+ School settings. This list would be incomplete without at least mentioning the school settings that make me associate these novels with this time of year. Holden begins his story at Pencey Preparatory Academy, a private boarding school, whereas Charlies begins his as a freshman at a public high school. Despite the differences between these two schools in terms of education styles and structures, they nevertheless evoke similar feelings of nostalgia and bittersweet fondness for those kinds of coming-of-age experiences.

This Classic Couple may seem a bit obvious or overdone, but I think that’s what makes it so interesting to discuss. Was Chbosky inspired, either consciously or subconsciously, by Salinger’s novel? I think it’s a testament to the enduring quality of The Catcher in the Rye that we still discuss it alongside popular books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower today. After all, isn’t that part of what makes a classic a classic?

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

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Romeo & Juliet and The Hunger Games

Sometimes it seems as though everyone is birthed from the womb with an inherent knowledge of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I have a feeling that a similar situation will happen with Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games in a few generations. Just as the mention of Shakespeare’s famous play immediately conjures up ideas of star-crossed lovers and family feuds, The Hunger Games may inevitably be associated with fights to the death, trust and betrayal, and forbidden love. Today, I’d like to discuss the many similarities between these books that make them more alike than one might initially expect.

+ Star-crossed lovers. Let’s get this one out of the way first since it’s probably the most obvious similarity. Both of these texts are rooted in romance, particularly relationships that are seemingly not supposed to happen. While Romeo and Juliet shouldn’t be together due to the clash between their families, Katniss and Peeta should be focused on killing each other rather than trying to seduce one another. These relationships occur rapidly yet are fueled by different motivations: love and lust vs. strategy and survival. The flawed natures of both of these relationships emphasize the far extent that people will stretch for romance.

+ Life and death: The dichotomy of living and dying plays a significant role in both texts. Each of their climactic scenes focuses on the tension between these two opposites and plays with the reader’s expectations of what should happen next. Romance becomes a life source for Katniss and Peeta as it helps them gain the popularity needed to ultimately survive the games; however, love becomes the downfall of Romeo and Juliet as it blinds them to realistic consequences and leads to their hasty deaths.

+ Youth: Part of the reason these texts are so remarkable is the age of the protagonists: Romeo and Juliet are in their early teen years, whereas Katniss and Peeta are in their later teen years. While this is often one of the more frustrating aspects of Romeo and Juliet for modern readers—they’re willing to commit suicide over someone they’ve known for three days when they’re thirteen?!—age plays a more positive role in Collins’ novel. Katniss and Peeta are able to fight back against an entire oppressive regime even though they are still teenagers.

+ Rebellion: Likewise, together these texts highlight the advantages and disadvantages of rebelling. While Shakespeare paints a rather bleak picture of what could happen when you go against the wishes of your elders, Collins seems to advocate standing up for what you believe in and opposing unjust authority figures. In this way, romance is used to make a very political statement in The Hunger Games. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at two very different, very similar texts!

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

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Middlemarch and Nervous Conditions

A few months ago I discussed Tsitsi Dangarembga’s 1988 novel Nervous Conditions in the context of feminist writing and postcolonial literature. Today, I’ll like to talk about this remarkable novel in a slightly different context: coupled with George Eliot’s classic 1871 novel Middlemarch. Published over a century apart and set against very different backdrops, these two novels are nevertheless tied together by many surprising similarities.

+ Multiplicity. Like the widely read classic Middlemarch, Nervous Conditions emphasizes the multiplicity of women’s voices and experiences. Dangarembga takes this a step further, demonstrating that so-called “Third World women” also possess a multiplicity that deserves to be recognized. Tambu’s (the narrator) mirror-like statements framing this novel remind the reader that although the story may be her own, it is also that of others. There is multiplicity in wholeness, just as it requires a plethora of women’s voices in order to establish and maintain a thriving tradition of women’s writing.

+ Challenges facing women. Both novels discuss rather taboo challenges facing women that are not often brought up in everyday conversation. Through Dorothea Brooke’s tense relationship with her husband Edward Casaubon, Eliot shows that marriage is not always inherently satisfying and gratifying for women. In Nervous Conditions, Dangarembga tackles the ominous topic of eating disorders. Rather than generalize disorders in the same way that women’s experiences of colonialism have been reduced to inaccurate stereotypes in literature, Dangarembga imbues Nyasha’s “nervous condition” with nuance. Like Nyasha, Dangarembga refuses to remain under the restrictive power of the patriarchy.

+ Opposing idealogical norms. Eliot strives to present a certain form of “moral realism” in her novel and is therefore much more concerned with representing fundamental truths than with recounting the minute details of daily life. One aim of her moral realism is to expose overlooked moments, as seen when Dorothea is disappointedly sobbing on her honeymoon with Casaubon in Rome. The belief that marriage must be flawless and fulfilling at all times is therefore dashed to pieces by Eliot’s realistic gaze, exposing the commonly held romanticized view of this life event. Disenchantment is a vital component of Eliot’s moral realism due to its emphasis on the true representation of an experience rather than one’s idealized, preconceived notions of a situation.

Similarly, Dangarembga opposes the notion that the literary sphere must be dominated by male voices. There is no singular experience of being a woman, meaning that there should be more than one woman’s voice being heard–and read–in the male-dominated literary sphere. In writing Nervous Conditions as a novel about African women and largely for African women, Dangarembga has indeed asserted the perspective of women into the otherwise male-dominated literary sphere of postcolonial writing. By engaging with the idea of multiplicity in the present, Dangarembga strives to ensure a multiplicity of African women’s voices being heard in the future.

While obviously very different, Middlemarch and Nervous Conditions still possess many similarities that may surprise unsuspecting readers. I highly recommend both of these novels, particularly if you’re looking for more literature that focuses on women’s experiences in different socioeconomic classes and cultures.

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 Middlemarch? 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 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

Top Ten Tuesday: Festive 4th Covers {Bookstagram Edition!}

Happy Tuesday! And for all of my fellow Americans, happy Fourth of July Eve! (That’s a holiday, right?!?) Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is Fourth of July themed, which means it’s time to break out those red, white, and blue book covers. This week I’ve set myself a little challenge of only using photos from my bookstagram. Let’s see how many I can find!

What are your favorite red, white, and blue books? What do you think of the ones on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Happy Fourth!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I was thrilled that part of my postcolonial literature tutorial during my last term at Oxford was reading and writing about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Fifteen years after the publication of her debut novel Purple Hibiscus in 2003, Adichie continues to make headlines today. Not only is she known as a renowned Nigerian novelist, but she has also made great viral strides with her TED talks “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009) and “We Should All Be Feminists” (2012). Adichie’s popular success in the public eye has thus had major implications for her most recent novel Americanah, published in 2013. Today I’d like to discuss Adichie’s role as a public feminist figure as opposed to how we would stereotypically categorize an academic.

Image from the Washington Post.

After the critical successes of her first two novels Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), alongside the publication of her short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck in 2009, Adichie began to step further and further into the popular spotlight through publicly giving TED talks. Part of her “We Should All Be Feminists” TED talk was also used in Beyonce’s 2013 single “***Flawless,” immediately thrusting Adichie into a wider, more varied audience than those who attend TEDx conferences or judge literary prizes. Adichie’s dual role as both novelist and public figure allows her the agency and opportunity to advocate for her own work and ideas without relying on the voices of literary critics for praise.

Perhaps Americanah has also achieved great popular success due to the close alignment between Adichie’s values as a public figure and those promulgated by the novel. In “The Danger of a Single Story,” Adichie explains how reading African literature helped her realize that “people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature” and therefore “I started to write about things I recognized” (Single Story). Years later, Americanah becomes a direct reflection of these words, even honing in on African women’s hair from the very beginning of the novel when Ifemelu wonders “why there was no place where she could braid her hair” in Princeton (Adichie 4). Ifemelu does not mirror the characters Adichie describes reading as a child, who were all “white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples”; instead, she has delivered her promise of branching beyond that single story promulgated by the Western literary canon (Single Story).

Likewise, in “We Should All Be Feminists,” Adichie laments that “because I’m female, I’m expected to aspire to marriage; I’m expected to make life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important” (Feminists). This disdain for women’s dependence on men for their personal identities and sense of self-worth is greatly emphasized in Americanah through Ifemelu’s increased agency. At the end of the novel, it is clear that Ifemelu has taken control of her own life on her own terms, remarking that “still, she was at peace: to be home, to be writing her blog, to have discovered Lagos again. She had, finally, spun herself fully into being” (Adichie 475). It is only after she creates this identity for herself that she finally allows Obinze, her past lover, to come into her house, thereby putting herself before the prospect of finding a partner. Adichie consistently values feminism and diverse representation both within and beyond her texts, becoming a reliable figure in the public eye. Her novel is therefore seen and read in this empowering context.

I highly recommend watching Adichie’s TEDtalks as well as reading her latest novel Americanah. Adichie is both a masterful novelist and public speaker, and the messages she delivers are certainly ones worth hearing.

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What are your thoughts on Adichie? Have you read any of her books? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: The Lost World and Jurassic Park

Today I bring you a very specie edition of A Classic Couple featuring two remarkable books: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912) and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990). You may be wondering what a novel by the creator of Sherlock Holmes has to do with the book that inspired my favorite movie. The answer? The Lost World has EVERYTHING to do with Jurassic Park because it’s the classic novel that the contemporary book is based on. 

Just in case you’re anything like me and this fact has completely blown your mind, I’ll give you a few moments to recover.

I discovered this connection just a few weeks ago when I was browsing the shelves of Blackwell’s in Oxford and stumbled upon Conan Doyle’s book. I picked it up because I thought it was a funny coincidence that it shares the same title as the sequel to Jurassic Park. My jaw literally dropped when I read the back cover and learned that this was the inspiration for a book that I hold near and dear to my heart. What are the chances?!?!

Usually in this feature I focus on the similarities between classics and their contemporary pairings; however, these two books share so many obvious elements that I actually think comparing them would be rather dull. Instead, today I’ll be discussing the differences between the two novels.

+ Setting. If you’ve read or seen the film Jurassic Park then you know that it takes place on the fictional Isla Nublar. Not only does this allow Crichton to write without worrying about being geographically accurate, but it also eliminates the need to discuss any inhabitants of the island. Unfortunately, the fact that The Lost World takes place in the Amazon basin of South America  means that the novel is riddled with prejudiced colonial ideology. There is little to distinguish Conan Doyle’s descriptions of the natives that the professors meet and the ape-creatures that violently attack them later on in the novel. This racist view didn’t necessarily surprise me given the publication date of the novel, but it certainly disappointed me.

+ Women. Yet another disappointment in the earlier novel is the near complete absence of women from the story. The only woman we meet is Gladys, who appears at the beginning and end of the novel for the sole purpose of being the narrator’s love interest. While Crichton’s novel could also benefit from a boost of women characters, at least we have Ellie Sattler as an intelligent, brave, complex woman to look up to.

+ Endings. I was surprised and delighted to see how different the conclusions of these two novels are despite their numerous similarities. I don’t want to spoil the endings for anyone, so I won’t share any specific plot details; however, it is enough to say that these two novels present very different views on the relationship between science and nature. While the earlier novel celebrates this scientific expedition as a glorious conquest that should be continued and used as a means of profit, the later novel condemns Jurassic Park as a dangerous yet futile attempt by humans to control nature. Perhaps this contrast can give us important insights into how we viewed scientific advancements at the beginning and end of the twentieth century.

Despite its problematic elements, I still very much enjoyed reading The Lost World and seeing how it compares to its contemporary counterpart. While I appreciate the earlier novel for its originality, I nevertheless must admit that Crichton’s Jurassic Park will always come first for me.

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

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Orlando and Every Day

It’s time for another Classic Couple! I love this feature so much but for some reason it tends to be the last thing on my mind when scheduling posts. In an effort to be more regular about it in the future, today I’d like to share an interesting and unexpected pair: Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando (1928) and David Levithan’s novel Every Day (2012). While reading the former novel for my Virginia Woolf in Modernist Contexts tutorial, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Levithan’s young adult novel that I read a few years ago. Although very different in setting, style, tone, and audience, both novels nevertheless discuss similar themes that many books shy away from.

Changing Bodies || Both novels involve the rather fantastical concept of suddenly, inexplicably, unexpectedly changing bodies. In Orlando, the eponymous protagonist wakes up one day to discover that her body has changed from male to female. Once this change occurs, Orlando remains in this female body for centuries until the novel ends in Woolf’s contemporary time. In Every Day, the protagonist A wakes up in a new body each day, thereby taking on different identities, lifestyles, and physical attributes.

Gender || Due to the emphasis on changing bodies of different sexes, gender is  a major aspect of these novels. Although Orlando’s biological sex has changed, she struggles with the fact that she often feels the same way in regard to her personality as she did when she was a man. In this way, Woolf not only suggests that biological sex has little bearing on one’s gender, but she also asserts that gender is a socially constructed, performed choice that one should be able to make about one’s own identity. A’s gender is even more fluid due to the fact that they seem to be genderless (or all genders at once??) and go by the neutral “they” pronoun.

Identity || As you can probably tell, identity is an important and essential overarching theme in these two novels. Although one’s personal identity is often viewed as something that is stable and changes gradually over time, Woolf and Levithan suggest that it can be more fluid than one may expect. They also stress that identity frequently defies categorization or even description, as language can fail to encompass all aspects of one’s personality due to its narrowing tendencies. It’s difficult to describe Orlando and A without stopping to think about who exactly they are and what their identities are composed of. In a world obsessed with naming and labelling seemingly everything in sight, these novels offer a refreshingly open way of thinking about one’s identity.

I never thought I would be comparing a Woolf novel with a Levithan novel, but Orlando and Every Day go together incredibly well. If you’re interested in either of these novels, I highly recommend checking them out!

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

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: Postcolonial Literature & Tsitsi Dangarembga

First, I want to thank you all for being so receptive to my last Feminist Fridays post about postcolonial literature. I didn’t expect there to be such resounding interest in this topic, but I’m so happy that there is! Today I’ll be talking about a groundbreaking author who does not get nearly enough time in the spotlight as she deserves: Tsitsi Dangarembga. After reading her debut novel in my postcolonial literature tutorial, I can’t help but want to dedicate an entire post to her impressive work.

Born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (what is now Zimbabwe) in 1959, Tsitsi Dangarembga made her mark in 1988 as the first Zimbabwean women to publish a novel in the English language. After studying medicine for some time at Cambridge University, she ultimately returned to Zimbabwe due to the intense racism she experienced in England. While studying psychology at the University of Zimbabwe she began writing plays and then finally wrote her landmark novel in 1988. The success of her debut text led her to study and pursue film as a career, and in 2002 she founded the International Images Film Festival in order to challenge the damaging stereotypes and beauty ideals promulgated by beauty pageants.

Her debut novel titled Nervous Conditions tells the story of several women struggling under the pressures of sexism, racism, and colonialism in 1960s Zimbabwe. Although narrated from the perspective of Tambudzai, a woman looking back on her life growing up in this tumultuous time, Dangarembga goes to great lengths to emphasize that Tambu is one of countless women whose experiences and perspectives are rarely considered, both in Zimbabwean society and in literature. Not only are there multiple women who feature prominently in this novel, but their lives are written with nuance and a meticulous attention to detail that defies homogeneity. By emphasizing multiplicity in Nervous Conditions, Dangarembga suggests the necessity and advantage of many voices being heard rather than a single perspective prevailing over all others. This cacophony of expression thus provides a space for African women writers to share their experiences and ideas in the predominantly male sphere of postcolonial literature.

Was Dangarembga successful in helping break down barriers of access and opportunity for a tradition of African women’s writing? When asked this question in an interview with Seal Press found in their 2004 edition of Nervous Conditions, Dangarembga responded: “I like to think the novel’s success might have encouraged other African women to go out there and do their thing […] because the shortage of role models is a critical issue for young black women in my part of the world.” Dangarembga’s emphasis on multiplicity in numerous aspects of the novel–from Tambu’s narration and focus on five women’s experiences to subverting Sartre’s notion of a singular “nervous condition” and portraying eating disorders with careful, meaningful nuance–defies the creation of a single homogenizing interpretation of women’s experiences of colonialism. In writing Nervous Conditions as a novel about African women and largely for African women, Dangarembga has indeed asserted the perspective of women into the otherwise male-dominated literary sphere of postcolonial writing. By engaging with the idea of multiplicity in the present, Dangarembga strives to ensure a multiplicity of African women’s voices being heard in the future.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone and everyone, especially those who have studied postcolonial literature or have read novels like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Here Dangarembga asserts that there is no universal women’s experience, calling for increased intersectionality and nuance when discussing feminist issues around the globe.

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What are your thoughts on Nervous Conditions? Are you interested in hearing more about what I’ve been reading in this tutorial? Have you ever taken a course on postcolonial literature? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY