About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Over Christmas I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and enjoyed the gothic edge that underlines this classic. (Spoiler alert!) The maniacal laughing coming from the top floor ends up being the romantic interest's first wife. But who was she and why was she crazy?
   First published in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea attempts to answer these questions. It is a fine example of what is termed fan fiction, where a writer is so taken with an existing novel that he/she decides to develop a story around one of the lesser known characters.

Wide Sargasso Sea
 (Penguin, 1997)
   The Wide Sargasso Sea is set firstly in the Carribean where Mr Rochester is wed to a young heiress from a failed plantation. Slavery has come to an end but the wounds and bitter feelings of the brutal industry remain. So does the pervasive influence of voodoo or obeah as it's called in this book. The young wife (Antoinette a.k.a. Bertha) fears such witchcraft but also tries to employ it to rekindle her husband's passions. Things go from bad to worse and Antoinette's sanity deteriorates. Filled with loathing for his wife, Mr Rochester determines that he must take her to England to distance her from all she loves and so part three of the story continues in a colder climate and weaves into Jane Eyre's narrative.
   I enjoyed the vibrant colours, the humidity and the lush vegetation described in this book. The dialogue is authentic too, with the islanders using an island creole or patois in turn. But the foreign words aren't overdone and there is a handy appendix at the back that aids understanding.
   Rhys has done well to depict a brooding mistrust among the islanders towards the visiting Mr Rochester and even towards the young Antoinette. At times the changes in point of view are hard to follow, but in general the author has pulled off a steamy and sinister tale of deception. This is well worth the read, and Iimagine it wouldn't matter too much if you've read Jane Eyre or not. The story is good enough to stand on its own.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Beth,
    Please see the following about the school children on Viwa Island, Fiji.
    Click on this link and it will take you to my facebook page.

    or contact me at:


    or my blog at: http://aussieheavenscent.blogspot.com

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Kind regards