Sunday, December 4, 2016

Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

It's in the top 100 must read novels list. Written by Jean Rhys after a long gap between her 1939 novel, this one came in 1966 and was her most successful commercial story. Later made into a 1993 movie.

It's told first form the view point of young Antoinette living in Jamaica in a home with a mother and a younger brother amidst lots of black slaves who are just coming out of the slavery Act. The place is haunting, you sense the black rebellion, the mother going to pieces, then marrying a second time, the house burning. An image of the pet parrot burning and falling off the window stays. The scene where the fleeing family is almost lynched by the blacks but are saved by the dying parrot (seemingly bad luck). Many such scenes stay in our mind as we read - from that house called Coulibri. Antoinette loses her younger brother Pierre in that madness. Her mother goes mad. Life disintegrates.

Then the story is told from the point of view of a man she marries. Someone who does not love her and who everyone thinks married her for her money. He is a philanderer but she is completely besotted with him. She even gets her old maid, someone who is known to have some voodoo powers to get him to love her. But he does not and takes her away to England, probably influenced by the common story there that she is mad just like her mother and also promiscuous. She slowly turns madder and madder away from Jamaica and all her comforting visions.

It's a haunting tale and images stay. Feelings stay. Glad to have ticked it off. Thanks Vinod. (It's a second hand book and I saw the name Aashay Suthankar W.L.III written on it. Nice to know Aashay read it - seemed to be some kind of an academic exercise as well with notings, underlinings and observations.)

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