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FOUR REASONS WE LOVE: WIDE SARGASSO SEA BY JEAN RHYS

WIDE SARGASSO SEA

• It’s an exotic precursor to Jane Eyre. Antoinette’s husband remains anonymous but he is recognised as Charlotte Brontë’s Mr Rochester. This is the back story to Antoinette ‘Bertha’ Cosway: Rochester’s disturbed wife, who he eventually takes to England and locks in the attic.

• Antoinette has a voice. In Jane Eyre she’s silenced but in Wide Sargasso Sea she’s given a platform to express her thoughts. She’s bright, sassy, fiery and we cheered when she says, “Bertha is not my name” (and bites Rochester’s arm).

• The formidable Christophine. Maid, nurse and guardian, Martinique-born Christophine introduces Antoinette to black culture and tries (not always successfully) to protect her. Proud and mysterious, she offers up pearls of wisdom such as, “A man don’t treat you good, pick up your skirt and walk out.”

• The Caribbean is beautiful. The novel is set all over the West Indies and while danger is omnipresent, it’s hard not to fall for Rhys’ dramatic, vivid picture of the Caribbean’s lush foliage and powerful cultural heritage. We’ve been saving up to go on a holiday there ever since

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (Penguin, £7.99)

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