Customer Review

81 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The madwoman from the attic is rescued, 11 Feb 2002
This review is from: Wide Sargasso Sea (Paperback)
This novel not only gives a voice to Bronte's madwoman from the attic, but it shows the woman as the true underdog she is --doubly oppressed by race and sex. A white Creole, the heroine Antoinette comes from an impoverished former slaveholding family on a Caribbean island, and as such is hated both by the black population (who continue to be exploited despite the formal abolition of slavery) and by the rich English "newcomers." After the death of her father and stepfather, and after her mother has been driven mad by their desperate citcumstances, Antoinette is sold, for the price of her dowry, to a young Englishman who wants to make a quick fortune. Rochester (who is never named and whose identity can only be guessed from the plot), is at the same time attracted and intimitated by her independence and exotic beauty, but soon the lush beauty of Antoinette's island turns into a nightmare for him too, as he is drawn into a net of lies and intrigues. Not willing nor able to listen to her side of the story ("There always is the other side," she once says to him), he begins to hate Antoinette with a hatred so fierce that it drives him to crush her personality until the point of madness.
In this novel, identity is never a simple and stable thing, and this is as true for Rochester as it is for Anoinette and the black servants who work for them. Despite the antagonistic feelings they all have for each other, there is a subtle mirroring taking place, blurring the distinction between "you" and "me", "them" and "us." Rochester's first person narrative (sandwiched and interrupted by Antoinette's first person account) reveals the extent to which he, too, increasingly feels a loss of control over his life and world, himself getting to the brink of madness. But with typical male dominance he decides to break Antoinette rather than be broken by her world (which he can neither understand nor accept), and so he ships her off to England, into the exile of his attic from which she shall never return alive. You will never read "Jane Eyre" the same way after having read this novel!
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4.3 out of 5 stars (95 customer reviews)
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