4* (out of 5*)
I put off reading Wide Sargasso Sea because all the reviews I read – mostly before joining GR – only focused on this book being a prequel to Jane Eyre, and I was afraid this might be another piece of fan fiction. Man, was I wrong! I’m not sure if knowing the story of Jane E. actually helps reading this book. It might help with the ending – if you don’t like cliffhangers, that is. WSS does work perfectly well as a stand-alone book. I thought the connection with Jane Eyre enabled Rhys to focus on the characters and develop the atmosphere and emotional development of Antoinette and Mr. Rochester rather than having to spend much time on developing a captivating plot. And the creation of an atmosphere is what Rhys manages – in a way not dissimilar to Daphne DuMaurier – perfectly. It drew me right into the story. There also is one observation about Wide Sargasso Sea I just can’t get out of my mind: The use of alcohol – in what seems to be quite large amounts – as a sedative for the troubled minds of both Antoinette and Rochester seems to be ubiquitous, and I cannot help but wonder if this was a description of Rhys’ own coping mechanisms that led to her alcoholism.