Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

This novel is frequently referred to in university English departments, both for its exploration of one of literature's most famous unseen characters and for its exploration of the cultural questions raised by Bertha's heritage. However, whilst the idea is obviously an interesting and clever one, and it is intellectual heresy to say it, I will admist that I found the text of this novel almost impenetrable. In places it felt as if I was reading a story in which around a quarter of the sentences had been deleted.

The earlier part of the book are most successful, with descriptions of Caribbean sights, scents and sounds powerfully described. The latter sections which most immediately preceed Jane Eyre are the most difficult to read, not least because of the experiment in stream-of-consciousness writing which is used to indicate Bertha's loss of sanity. The tone of the entire book is unremittingly dark.

This is a book to read for completeness and to gain points on your intellectual scorecard. It is not a book to read for pleasure or escapism.

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