June Book Club Discussion: WIDE SARGASSO SEA

This month we picked WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys as our June book for the Hot Key Book Club. To find out what we thought, watch the video below (featuring Monique, Livs, Sanne and Sarah Odedina).

The prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s literary classic, JANE EYRE, author Jean Rhys attempts to provide a life for the character Bertha Mason, the infamous ‘madwoman in the attic’, who we initially know hardly anything about and appears as a mere motif in a much-loved gothic novel.

In WIDE SARGASSO SEA, Bertha is first known as Antoinette Cosway, a young Creole girl from Jamaica. The book is split into three parts; part 1 is where Antoinette tells us about her turbulent childhood with her dysfunctional family and the tension experienced between black and Creole people in her town. In part 2, we hear from Rochester who explains how he came to marry Antoinette, and also how their marriage gradually started to fall apart. In part 3 is where both Charlotte Bronte’s classic and its prequel really cross over, as Antoinette has now become Bertha Mason, detailing her experience living in the attic.

We’re curious to see what you thought about the book! So here are some discussion questions:

  • Would you consider WIDE SARGASSO SEA as a homage to Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE or a modern critique of the literary classic?
  • Throughout the book, the difference between Rochester and Antoinette are marked and is ultimately the reason for their failed marriage, but did you pick up on any similarities between the two characters?
  • How did you find the nature of the relationships between the black, Creole and white characters?
  • Names are an important motif throughout book, especially Rochester’s nicknames he has for Antoinette, (e.g. Bertha Mason and Marionette). Do you see any connotations behind these two names?
  • The story’s ending is left slightly open ended and it only alludes to the idea of what Antoinette is to do next, how exactly do you think the story would have ended?

Let us know what you thought of WIDE SARGASSO SEA in a comment or on Twitter @HotKeyBooks.

Every month we ask you to share your reviews with us and this time M & Little M from We Sat Down wrote about WIDE SARGASSO SEA on their blog. You can read the post here. Thanks for sharing!