Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I know that I will probably be in the minority when I say this – but Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys was boring. I know that isn't very analytical of me – but it's my blog – and I will be as unanalytical as I like!

As you heard in my last review (of sorts), I loved Jane Eyre. It has gone straight into my list of favourite books of all time (you can see the others in my widget on the sidebar).

So, as you can imagine with my new found love of Jane Eyre and all the great things I had heard about Wide Sargasso Sea, I was very much looking forward to reading it.

Initially, I thought that it was going to be fabulous. The writing is amazing (I can't deny it and I don't want to) and the story seemed liked it was going to be equally as good. But as much as I could see the potential and admire the writing, I just didn't enjoy it.

Here are my biggest complaints: it was too slow. I felt like I had to push my way through the writing to get to the story (hope that makes sense) and when I got to the story nothing interesting was happening.

There was no resolution to any parts of the story. A friend of mine who read it at the same time as me thought that this could perhaps be explained by the fact that Rhys was making a comment on how everything is resolved so neatly in Jane Eyre and she is probably right. Having said that, I am just someone that needs answers at the end of a story.

There were too many endnotes. You know the notes that you have to flick to the back of the book to read? So annoying. I don't want to flip backwards and forwards every few pages for explanations about what I am reading. It ruins the flow mo-jo.

It was interesting reading about the colonial history of the West Indies as it is referred to, but not interesting enough make up for the slow moving story.

I very much understand and identify with Rhys's fascination with 'the woman in the attic' in Jane Eyre'. I admit myself to not being at all satisfied with Rochester's explanation of the situation and I never felt quite like I had closure on that issue in Jane Eyre.

Having said that, Wade Sargasso Sea didn't help me in any way to resolve me feelings towards the first Mrs Rochester's situation. I know Rhys didn't necessarily write it to provide me with closure, but it would have been nice.

I know that is all negative so I am sorry for adding to the negative energy out there in the world, but it had to be said.

3 / 8: Couldn't get into it but I finished it because I felt like I should.

Do you think I am crazy and that this is actually a fabulous book? I think perhaps most people feel like that.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I loved this book so much that it is almost impossible for me to talk about in any articulate way.

I just want to gush about perfect it was. How much I loved Jane. How beautiful and poignant the writing is. How I wish it would never end but I couldn't put it down. So bear with me while I ramble about how wonderful it was.

**If you haven't read Jane Eyre – don't read this post. It is impossible to talk about with spoiling most of the story and I want you to read it without knowing what happens. A lot of the time, you probably won't understand what I am talking about anyway. You have been warned.

Jane is such a wonderfully headstrong but moral character. I constantly felt heartbroken on her behalf but nothing seemed to break her spirit. She believed in what was right and Christian and she acted upon it no matter what cost to her. She is perhaps one of the strongest characters I have ever read.

I admit to be initially incredulous at the way in which Jane leaves Thornfield Hall after the disastrous wedding and all that follows. I imagined that she would be the kind of person who would reject the kind of impropriety that behaviour demonstrates. It also seemed a bit over the top for her to then be wandering around the countryside begging and sleeping in fields. Maybe a little bit too over dramatic.

After talking to a friend though about this issue I feel a bit better about it. Jane was so fixated on doing the right and moral thing, demonstrated particularly by her returning to her Aunt on her deathbed. She had been like this for her entire life. Even at Lowood School she could not accept the injustice that she saw in the way Helen Burns could, regardless of whether it was done in the name of God or not. I can see now that Jane believed so strongly that it was wrong for her to live in sin with Rochester, as he was urging, but she didn't trust her all too human desires and so rather than betray her beliefs, even her own nature, she chose to leave Thornfield Hall urgently.

I still found the aimless wandering around the countryside a little bit melodramatic, but I know I am probably out on a limb on this issue. In any event, it serves as the way in which she comes to meet her natural family and so I can easily not worry too much about my misgivings about this section of the story.

Then there's Rochester. I don't know what to make of him. Part of me thinks that he is just so adorable. Perhaps not initially – but when they are finally at the point of declaring their feelings for each other and he explains how he has been feeling that whole time that he has been watching her and trying to figure out what she feels about him – I couldn't help but sigh a big long "aaaaawwwwwwwwww". Bless. What a sweetheart. And his reaction when he finally comes back to him at the end of the book with his sweet confusion about whether it could really her come back to him because it's just too good to be true – I couldn't help but sigh another big long "aaaaaaawwwwwwww". Bless.

On the other hand, the man has locked his crazy wife up in the attic. For years. And then tries to trick an innocent young girl into bigamy, then treats her like sh*t at the wedding when all is exposed and tries to convince her to live in sin with him. All of which he knows (or should know) that she would morally abhor, and in doing so puts her in a position where she feels her only option is practically to escape with what little she has – and we know how that turns out!

He doesn't once take responsibility for his actions (in my humble opinion anyway). I mean I know times were different back then – but there is no real sense of remorse for what he has done. There is just this sense of how hard done by he feels that he is. And he is selfish. He thinks about himself and his own happiness more than he thinks about Jane's.

And yet…. Their romance is just so sweet. He loves her. She loves him. And despite everything, they end up together. He is a sinner, but her love redeems him. Beautiful.

The wife in the attic – that is a whole other issue. I know times were different back then – but you can't help but think that locking someone in an attic would only send them more crazy. This was the only part of the story I didn't feel had any real conclusion. I wasn't satisfied with Rochester's story about how she came to be crazy and a prisoner at Thornfield Hall, it just seemed a bit one sided.

(If you ignored my advice above and are still reading this post even though you haven't read the book – at least don't read this paragraph for me) Then there is the way in which everything has such a neat conclusion. She goes to the charity school which is terrible but then it improves and she becomes a teacher there. Because she does well as a teacher she is able to become a governess, and meet the man she will fall in love with. Her potential marriage collapses when she finds that Rochester has been lying to her and she finds herself homeless and starving. Then the people that she seeks help from just coincidentally happen to be her long lost relatives. Then she gets a massive amount of money left her and becomes very rich. Then she finds that Rochester's wife has died so she can marry him. And he is blind which places them on equal footing.

It almost feels too good to be true – but you love Jane so much that it doesn't matter. You want the best for Jane and so you are willing to believe the almost unbelievable for her sake.

And what about St John Rivers! I have to admit that at one point I almost thought that she would agree to marry him. That man was horrible. Yet in the end he is able to come to understand his faults and mistakes and so is forgiven.

I think that overall this book is mostly about morality, more than Christianity or anything else.

I am not going to go too much into this because there are scholars out there that are better placed than me to talk about it. I think, however, that Bronte was sharing a powerful message that what man says about God and religion isn't always the right thing – that behaving in a manner that is moral and good is sometimes bigger than religion.

In the preface to Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte says:
Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.

These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is – I repeat it – a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.
Regardless of whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, atheist or agnostic, I think that this is a useful lesson for everyone.

I think what best illustrated Bronte's views on these issues was the contrast between Jane Eyre and her friend Helen Burns at Lowood School. Helen accepted the way of like at Lowwod; the starvation, the diseases, the abuse and humiliation because she believed in forgiveness preached in the Bible and had convinced herself that in the name of God it was her duty to accept things as they were (that's how I saw it anyway). Jane on the other hand wasn't willing to accept the wrongs perpetrated against the inmates of Lowood School in the name of forgiveness. She saw that the behaviour of the management of the institution (the Church), although done in the name of God, was immoral and a crime against the children and those acts were worth fighting against.

The same can be seen in the character of St John Rivers. He believes that he is a Christian man (in fact he is a clergyman),and yet he is depicted as a demanding and almost deceitful man (I am thinking about when he accused Jane of going back on her promise to marry him when in fact she gave no such promise) and it often feels as though he is only doing the acts that he does in order to make himself seem better in the eyes of others.

The biggest lesson I learnt from Jane Eyre is how important it is to stand up for what you believe in and doing the right, good and honourable thing will always be the most personally rewarding.

I will just leave you with my favourite moment in the book - the moment when Rochester and Jane are having their first meaningful discussion in the living room by the fire. Jane spoke to him as if she were his equal, despite being at times confused about what he was trying to say. They were so obviously trying to get the feel for the other person and they had this instant connection and the tension between the two of them was palpable. Their discussion continued for quite some pages, and I remember closing the book when their conversation ended and just feeling exhausted and emotionally drained by their exchange.

Ultimately – what does Jane Eyre mean to me? It means passion and that living a passionate life is living a full life.

I love Jane Eyre.

8 / 8: One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.

Am I over reacting or did you love it as much as I did? Feel free to post your comments on my random thoughts and opinions, I imagine some of them might be controversial?

From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne

From the Earth to the Moon is not one of Jules Verne's best works.

It is such a shame because I have really enjoyed the Jules Verne books that I have read recently those being Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days (which I am about 1/3 through reading on my iPhone).

From the Earth to the Moon was written in 1865 and is based on the adventures of the Gun Club, an influential American club that finds itself at a loss as to what to do with itself now that its weaponry invention services are no longer needed. The President of the club, Mr Barbicane decides that the time has come to send a projectile to the moon, and the rest of the book details how the Gun Club works toward achieving this goal.

Verne's storytelling in From the Earth to the Moon just doesn't compare to the other works of his that I have read. To be fair, the way in which the story unfolds is well done, but the content just didn't live up to what I have come to expect from Verne. The characters felt like caricatures (which perhaps they were supposed to be?) that were just so overdone as to make them unbelievable. My biggest complaint, however, was that the scientific discussion was just overdone. He was a little but guilty of this in A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, but not nearly to the same extent as he is guilty of it in this book. No doubt for someone with a significant interest in space exploration or even just science would find this an interesting read, if only because of the insight it provides into post civil war American scientific knowledge.

Ultimately though, this was a disappointment and I didn't finish the book. If you are new to science fiction, this is definitely not one for you.

I am, however, still looking forward to finishing Around the World in 80 Days and starting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

1 / 8
Couldn't even finish it

I would be interested to know what you thought of this book if you have read it, and how you thought it compared to some of his other works.