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In this article, we will be discussing the audiobook review of Jean Rhys’ postcolonial classic “Wide Sargasso Sea,” published in 1966. Rhys’ novel explores issues of race, identity, and power dynamics through the lens of her protagonist, Antoinette Cosway.

As we delve into the world of “Wide Sargasso Sea,” we will evaluate the audiobook rendition of the novel, including its narration, listener experience, and comparison to the print version. Additionally, we will explore the critical reception of the novel and its impact on literature as a whole.

If you are a fan of “Wide Sargasso Sea,” interested in postcolonial narratives, or simply looking for an impactful audiobook experience, this review is for you.

About “Wide Sargasso Sea”

“Wide Sargasso Sea” is a postcolonial classic written by Jean Rhys and published in 1966. The novel serves as a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” and explores the backstory of Bertha Mason, Mr. Rochester’s first wife. Set in the Caribbean during the 1830s, the novel delves into themes such as race, identity, gender, power dynamics, and colonial oppression.

“Wide Sargasso Sea” has received critical acclaim as a postcolonial masterpiece, with many scholars and literary experts lauding Rhys’ writing style and the novel’s contribution to the postcolonial canon. The work has been adapted into various forms, including stage plays, films, and even an opera.

“A work of such power, it leaves us — like the protagonists — transformed by the journey.” – Oprah Winfrey

Plot Summary

“Wide Sargasso Sea” is a postcolonial novel that explores the backstory of Bertha Mason, the “madwoman in the attic” from Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre.” Set in Jamaica during the 1830s and 1840s, the novel follows Antoinette, a white Creole heiress, and her relationship with Mr. Rochester, who later becomes the husband of Jane Eyre.

The story is narrated in three parts, with the first part introducing Antoinette’s childhood on a decaying estate named Coulibri in Jamaica. Her father dies in disgrace, and her mother, traumatized by the experience, becomes abusive towards her daughter. Later, Antoinette is ostracized by the black community for being a white Creole, and the estate is burnt down in a riot.

The second part of the novel shifts to Mr. Rochester’s perspective, exploring his arrival in Jamaica and his evolving relationship with Antoinette, whom he renames “Bertha” as a sign of his dominance over her. The couple moves to England, where Bertha’s deteriorating mental health is revealed, prompting Mr. Rochester to lock her in the attic of his estate, Thornfield Hall.

In the final part of the novel, narrated by an anonymous servant, we see the events leading up to Bertha’s death at Thornfield Hall and the aftermath of Mr. Rochester’s encounter with Jane Eyre at the end of “Jane Eyre.” The novel ends with a sense of unresolved questions and complex emotions, leaving readers to grapple with the legacy of colonialism, patriarchy, and madness.

Characters in “Wide Sargasso Sea”

“Wide Sargasso Sea” features a diverse range of characters that play pivotal roles in the narrative and its exploration of colonialism, gender, and racial identity. The protagonist, Antoinette Cosway, is a young Creole woman who faces oppression and prejudice from both the English colonizers and the local people on the island of Jamaica. Her husband, Mr. Rochester, is a wealthy and privileged Englishman who marries Antoinette for her dowry but ultimately becomes disillusioned with her and their relationship.

Other notable characters in the story include Christophine, an enigmatic servant and friend to Antoinette who possesses knowledge of herbal medicine and African spiritualism. There is also Annette, Antoinette’s mother, who is plagued by mental illness and ends up tragically taking her own life. Finally, there is Amélie, a close confidante and caretaker of Antoinette’s family who must navigate the complex power dynamics of the colonial hierarchy.

The relationships between these characters are often fraught with tension, deceit, and betrayal, underscoring the harsh realities of colonialism and its impact on individual lives.

The table below provides a visual summary of the primary characters in “Wide Sargasso Sea” and their respective roles and motivations within the narrative.

Character Role Motivations
Antoinette Cosway Protagonist To find a sense of belonging and escape the oppression she faces
Mr. Rochester Antagonist, Antoinette’s husband To gain wealth and status, but later to extricate himself from his unhappy marriage
Christophine Servant, wise woman To protect and support Antoinette, to assert her knowledge and power despite colonial oppression
Annette Cosway Antoinette’s mother To find love and stability, but ultimately driven to madness and suicide
Amélie Servant, caretaker To navigate the complex power structures of colonialism and support Antoinette’s well-being

Much of the critical conversation surrounding “Wide Sargasso Sea” centers on its portrayal of diverse and complex characters, particularly Antoinette and Mr. Rochester. These figures serve as representations of larger societal issues related to power, identity, and oppression, making them crucial to understanding the overall themes and messages of the novel.

Setting and Atmosphere

Set in Jamaica during the 1830s, “Wide Sargasso Sea” offers an immersive and haunting depiction of the lush and dangerous tropical landscapes of the Caribbean. Through her meticulous descriptions, Jean Rhys captures the raw beauty and brutal realities of the environment, interweaving its natural elements into the narrative, from the vivid coral reefs and dense jungles to the ominous walls of the colonial mansions.

Atmosphere-wise, “Wide Sargasso Sea” exudes a palpable sense of unease and tension, reflective of the social and political upheavals of the era. Rhys’ use of gothic motifs and symbolism adds to the eerie and hallucinatory tone of the story, emphasizing the characters’ emotional and psychological turmoil.

“All of it- the garden, the nursemaids, the mountains in the distance, the big house with its smell of wood-smoke — was unreal. There was a feverish intensity in the air, a sense of the imminent eruption of some violence..”

Wide Sargasso Sea setting and atmosphere image

The setting and atmosphere of “Wide Sargasso Sea” are integral to the story, enhancing its emotional impact and thematic resonance. With her evocative and skillful prose, Jean Rhys creates a fully-realized world that transports the reader to another time and place, immersing them in a haunting and unforgettable tale.

Themes Explored

“Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys deals with a host of themes and topics that are still relevant to modern-day society. The novel emphasizes issues like race, identity, power dynamics, and gender roles that are woven together to create a critical examination of postcolonial experiences and their impact on those involved.

One of the central themes of the novel is identity, as it explores how the characters struggle with their own sense of self in the face of societal pressures and cultural conditioning. Rhys masterfully portrays the complexity of identity and how it can be shaped and manipulated by the world around us.

Race and Power

Another major theme in “Wide Sargasso Sea” is the relationship between race and power. Rhys paints a stark picture of colonialism and its effects on the black and white inhabitants of Jamaica. The novel delves into themes of racism, exploitation, and oppression that are a product of the colonial system.

In this context, the figure of Antoinette’s husband, who represents the power of the British colonizers, is a prominent example of how race and power dynamics can intersect in harmful ways. Through the character of Christophine, Rhys also provides a nuanced perspective on the role that race plays in shaping one’s identity and experiences.

Gender and Sexuality

The novel also explored issues related to gender and sexuality. The portrayal of women in the novel, including Antoinette and Christophine, speaks to challenges that women face within patriarchal societies.

The character of Antoinette’s husband is also an example of how gender roles, sexual desire, and societal expectations can intersect in dangerous ways. Through the portrayal of characters such as Grace Poole, Rhys highlights the challenges that women face when navigating their sexuality within a patriarchal system.

Overall, the themes explored in “Wide Sargasso Sea” are complex and multi-faceted, providing insight into the experiences of those on the margins of society. Jean Rhys’ insightful analysis and brilliant use of literary techniques make this novel a must-read for anyone interested in postcolonial literature and its impact on the world.

Writing Style and Narrative Technique

In “Wide Sargasso Sea,” Jean Rhys employs a unique writing style and narrative technique to depict the complex layers of her characters’ experiences. The novel is divided into three parts, each with a distinct tone and style. The first part is a stream of consciousness narrative from the perspective of Antoinette, the protagonist, which allows the reader to gain insight into her innermost thoughts and emotions.

The second part shifts to a more traditional omniscient narrator, providing a more objective view of events. Rhys uses descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the setting and atmosphere, immersing the reader in the world of the story.

The third part of the novel returns to Antoinette’s perspective but is marked by fragmented narration and surreal imagery as her mental state deteriorates. Rhys’ use of disjointed language reflects the character’s inner turmoil and destabilized mental state, creating a haunting and disturbing effect.

Overall, Rhys’ writing style and narrative technique in “Wide Sargasso Sea” create a complex and multi-layered reading experience that explores the nuances of colonialism, identity, and power dynamics in a gripping and thought-provoking way.

Key Writing Techniques in “Wide Sargasso Sea”

Technique Description Example from the text
Stream of consciousness A narrative style that depicts a character’s internal thoughts as a continuous, often fragmented, flow of associations and images. “These garden walls were much higher than they used to be. There was the archway to my right. I went through it. It was dark at first but then I could see the path. And when I came out of the arch the stream and the pool were not there any more. Instead there was a lawn and a great big house quiet in the dark trees.” – Antoinette’s stream of consciousness in Part I
Descriptive language The use of vivid and sensory details to create a vivid image of a character or setting. “One tree was tall, very dark, and had a hole in it so that the trunk was bent. Through the hole, I saw blue sky.” – Description of the garden in Part II
Fragmented narration A narrative style that presents events out of sequence or with missing information, often to reflect a character’s disorienting experience. “What am I doing in this place and who am I? You may well ask. And that’s what I’d like to know. Who am I?…And where is Christophine? No, no, that’s not the trouble. The trouble is, what am I doing here?” – Antoinette’s fragmented thoughts in Part III

Audiobook Narration

“Wide Sargasso Sea” is a highly acclaimed postcolonial novel that explores complex themes of race, identity, and power dynamics. The audiobook narration of this classic novel is just as impressive, with a skilled performer bringing the story to life for listeners.

The narration style is clear and engaging, guiding listeners through the intricate plot and complex character dynamics. The performance captures the essence of Jean Rhys’ writing, conveying both the beauty and darkness of the story.

The audiobook is a suitable format for experiencing “Wide Sargasso Sea,” particularly for those who prefer to listen to literature on-the-go. The expertly crafted narration adds a new dimension to the already impactful narrative, creating a truly immersive listening experience.

Overall, the audiobook rendition of “Wide Sargasso Sea” is a must-listen for fans of the novel and those interested in impactful postcolonial literature. The performance is a testament to the power of audiobooks in bringing classic literature to life for modern audiences.

Listener Experience

The audiobook version of “Wide Sargasso Sea” offers an immersive and engaging listening experience for the audience. The narration by Juliet Stevenson effectively captures the emotional depth and complexity of the story, bringing each character to life with distinct and dynamic voices.

Listeners can easily get lost in the vivid and atmospheric world created by Rhys, with Stevenson’s performance adding an extra layer of intensity and authenticity to the narrative. The audiobook also allows for a more convenient and accessible way to experience the story, with the ability to listen on-the-go or during daily activities.

Overall, the “Wide Sargasso Sea” audiobook is a compelling and captivating version of the classic postcolonial work, offering a unique and satisfying listening experience for audiences.

Comparison to the Print Version

Experiencing “Wide Sargasso Sea” through an audiobook brings a unique dimension to the reading experience. However, comparing it to the print version is essential to understand any differences that may influence people’s preference for either version.

One critical advantage of the audiobook version is the narrator’s ability to bring the characters to life through their voice, emotions, and intonation. The narrator’s reading pace can also help listeners appreciate the poetic language that Jean Rhys is known for.

On the other hand, reading the print version provides an opportunity for individuals to immerse themselves in Rhys’ descriptive world at their own pace. The print version also allows readers to revisit and linger on specific sections and highlight passages for critical analysis.

“The audiobook version of ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ brings a fresh and engaging perspective to the novel, but it’s worth comparing it to the print version for a more in-depth understanding of the story and its language.”

Critical Reception

“Wide Sargasso Sea” has received widespread critical acclaim since its publication in 1966. The novel has been praised for its insightful commentary on postcolonialism, race, and feminist issues. Literary critics have noted the book’s beautiful prose and its ability to transport readers to the atmospheric setting of the post-slavery Caribbean.

“Rhys has constructed a complex and powerful narrative that reframes the traditional narrative of ‘Jane Eyre’ to give voice and agency to the silenced character of Bertha Mason. It is a beautiful and haunting work of postcolonial literature.” – The Guardian

Many scholars have hailed “Wide Sargasso Sea” as a seminal work of postcolonial literature, which has inspired numerous other writers and artists in exploring the issues of colonialism, oppression, and marginalized identities.

Impact and Cultural Significance

“Wide Sargasso Sea” has had a profound impact on the literary world, with its exploration of postcolonial themes and unique perspective on a well-known classic. Jean Rhys’ work has been widely celebrated for its masterful execution and cultural significance, both as a standalone novel and a companion to Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre.”

The novel has contributed to postcolonial discourse through its portrayal of the experiences of marginalized characters, particularly Antoinette, a Creole woman in Jamaica. Rhys’ depiction of colonialism, racial identity, and gender dynamics has inspired generations of readers and writers alike, making “Wide Sargasso Sea” an enduring and influential work of literature.

“In ‘Wide Sargasso Sea,’ Rhys positioned herself in the space of a postcolonial feminist avant la lettre, tackling issues of hybridity, marginalization, and loss, both personal and collective.” – Maria Lauret, Literary Critic

The Influence on Contemporary Literature

“Wide Sargasso Sea” continues to hold cultural significance today, with its impact evident in contemporary literature. The novel’s representation of colonialism and its effects on marginalized populations has inspired writers from various backgrounds to explore similar themes in their own works.

Contemporary Works Influenced by “Wide Sargasso Sea” Author
“The Inheritance of Loss” Kiran Desai
“Lucy” Jamaica Kincaid
“Small Island” Andrea Levy

These works, among others, have cited “Wide Sargasso Sea” as a significant influence and a source of inspiration, highlighting its relevance and impact on contemporary literature.

Overall, “Wide Sargasso Sea” is a seminal work in postcolonial literature and an important contribution to cultural discourse. Its impact on the literary world and beyond is a testament to the power of storytelling and the importance of diverse perspectives in shaping our understanding of the world around us.


If you’re searching for a powerful and poignant piece of postcolonial literature, look no further than Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea.” This audiobook rendition is a fantastic way to experience the narrative, as it captures the emotional depth and atmospheric world-building that Rhys’ writing is known for.

Whether you’re a fan of classic literature or seeking a thought-provoking story, “Wide Sargasso Sea” is a must-listen. The audiobook narration enhances the immersive experience and makes the complex themes of the novel accessible to all listeners.

Wide Sargasso Sea Audiobook

Overall, we highly recommend “Wide Sargasso Sea” in audiobook format for anyone interested in exploring the layered, impactful storytelling of Jean Rhys and diving into a complex narrative that continues to resonate with readers today.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the audiobook rendition of “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys is a hauntingly beautiful rendition of a postcolonial classic. The story explores complex themes and relationships, and the narration by the talented actress, Brenda Blethyn, brings the characters to life in a powerful and evocative way.

The atmospheric setting of the novel is also effectively captured in the audiobook, immersing the listener in the lush, tropical landscapes and oppressive social dynamics of the narrative. The writing style and narrative technique by Jean Rhys, combined with Blethyn’s compelling performance, create a poignant and memorable listening experience.

For listeners who enjoy postcolonial literature, character-driven stories, and atmospheric settings, “Wide Sargasso Sea” is a must-listen. Even those who may not typically gravitate towards literary fiction will find themselves captivated and moved by this compelling audiobook.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking listen that explores complex themes with beautiful prose and exceptional performances, we highly recommend “Wide Sargasso Sea” in audiobook form.


Overall, “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys is a postcolonial classic that has captivated readers for decades. The audiobook rendition provides a unique and immersive experience that is worth exploring, especially for those who appreciate well-crafted narratives and nuanced character development.

The audiobook narration is expertly performed, effectively conveying the setting, atmosphere, and emotions of the story. It enhances the listener experience and provides a fresh perspective on the themes and issues explored in the book.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking and engaging audiobook, we highly recommend “Wide Sargasso Sea.” Whether you’re already familiar with the book or are discovering it for the first time, the audiobook version offers a compelling way to experience this literary masterpiece.

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