Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The novel begins when Antoinette is a child, living in the Caribbean after slavery has been repealed. Her family of former slave owners has fallen into financial difficulties and her mother’s erratic behavior further isolate the child from the community.
This novel was chosen by my banned book group because it is listed on the American Library Association as one of the 100 classic novels that is most frequently challenged. Why? I can only assume it’s because of the use of the n-word. Frankly, I am tired of the word. I’ve read too many novels lately that use it and I am ready to escape its energy altogether.
This is also my second time reading this novel and I have to say that I didn’t like it any better this time than I did before. In fact, I would not have read another Jean Rhys novel because I found this novel so underwhelming. Many of the same themes that I enjoyed in her previous novels—the ideas of alienation, isolation, sexual politics—are all explored here but less effectively in my mind. This novel is its most powerful when Antoinette is telling the story but the first person narrative is given over to one character in part two and very briefly to a third in the final part.
I don’t dislike this novel not to recommend it but I don’t like it enough to do so either.