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KEV67

Wide Sargasso Sea

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Does Wide Sargasso Sea count as chick lit? I remember my mother having a copy in the 70s. It is about Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre, who in this book is called Antoinette Mason. TBH, I am a bit confused. I remember Bertha Mason having a brother, but in this I am not sure whether he is a brother or half-brother. Bertha Mason is a big, strong Amazonian woman in Jane Eyre, but in this she is rather gracile. She may be tall. Mr Rochester does not chat away ten to a dozen like he does in Jane Eyre, but he is writing from his point of view,  I am only about half way through at present. It is all prettily written. There is a lot about race. The nature of Miss Mason's madness is not clear. Maybe she's not mad. I expect you don't get an A in your English Literature essay for writing that. As a stand-alone book, I think it is a good book. It is a bit dreamy. It has a fair bit to say about racial resentment in the West Indies. As a prequel to Jane Eyre I do not think the characters are consistent.

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Definitely not chick lit! I read this many years ago so can't remember it well but do recall it's neither fluffy or feel good which are present in nearly all chick lit. It's middlebrow fiction imo and the sort of book that would have been longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction if that had existed when it came out.

 

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I was left a bit confused, as if I had not been paying enough attention. The Rochester's honeymoon did not seem to last very long. He never seemed to use his extensive wooing powers on young Antoinette. He seemed pretty cold all the way through. I suppose the letter poisoned his mind. I don't know why he hated her. Sure he married her for money, but she did not seem that objectionable in herself to start. I don't know why he insisted on calling her Bertha, when it was not her name and she objected to it. I suppose it is what is called gas-lighting behaviour. In the last section of the book Antoinette does seem to have gone potty, which undermines the 'she was not really mad' hypothesis. It is a beautifully written book, but everyone in it is horrible. If I had lived in Jamaica as it was described, I would not have been able to leave quick enough.

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The afterword by Andrea Ashworth is quite interesting. Jean Rhys sounds like she led quite an interesting life, if living as a bad-tempered, drunken, recluse in Devon can be considered interesting. That was only one part of her life. Some of her other books sound quite interesting, but not fluffy or feel good, so not chick lit.

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