Wide Sargasso Sea

Historical and cultural context

Eric Williams From Columbus to Castro; the history of the Caribbean 1492-1969 (London: Deutsch, 1970)

Works by Jean Rhys

(If you only have time to read one text, the most similar / relevant to Wide Sargasso Sea is Voyage in the Dark)

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971). First published 1931

The Collected Short Stories (New York: Norton, 1987)

The Complete Novels (New York: Norton,1987)

The Early Novels (London: Deutsch 1984)

Good Morning, Midnight ( Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969). First published 1939

The Left Bank and Other Stories. Preface by Ford Madox Ford (London: Jonathan Cape, 1927)

My Day: Three Pieces by Jean Rhys (New York: Frank Hallman, 1975)

Quartet (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), This was first published as Postures in 1928

Sleep It Off, Lady (London: Deutsch, 1976) (Short stories)

Tales of the Wide Caribbean, ed. by Kenneth Ramchand (London and Kingston, Jamaica: Heinemann, 1985)

Tigers are Better-Looking (London: Deutsch, 1968) (Short stories)

Voyage in the Dark (London: Deutsch 1967)

Wide Sargasso Sea

The following annotated editions of the novel are currently available:

Wide Sargasso Sea ed. and intro. by Angela Smith (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1997). This edition has an introduction which provides historical and cultural context for the novel. It also reprints Francis Wyndham's introduction to the first edition.

Wide Sargasso Sea ed. by Hilary Jenkins (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001) Penguin Student Edition. An edition aimed at A level students; it provides an introduction, character notes, etc, a chronology and topics for discussion.

Wide Sargasso Sea ed. by Judith L. Raiskin (New York: Norton, 1999) Norton Critical Edition. Like other Norton Critical Editions, this includes an annotated text, contextual information, a chronology and a selection of extracts from reviews and critical interpretations. 


Angier, Carole Jean Rhys: Life and Work ( London: Deutsch, 1990)

This is the standard biography but it does tend to read the works as tied quite closely to Jean Rhys' life.

Letters and autobiography

Jean Rhys' letters have been published as:

Letters, 1931-66, ed. By Francis Wyndham and Diana Melly (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985)

Her own autobiographical writings have been published as:

Smile Please; An Unfinished Autobiography (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981)

Critical works on Jean Rhys

There have been many studies of the work of Jean Rhys. Good, general (and short) accounts of her books are:

Carr, Helen Jean Rhys (Plymouth: Northcote House, 1996)

Maurel, Sylvie Jean Rhys (London: Macmillan, 1998)

Savory, Elaine Jean Rhys (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). A more detailed and academic book but it has useful chapters on Jean Rhys' life, critical responses to her work and the importance of place in Wide Sargasso Sea.

Criticism of Wide Sargasso Sea

The books listed above under ‘Critical Works' have sections on Wide Sargasso Sea and useful bibliographies to direct you to more specific material on this novel.

A useful compilation of extracts from critical books and essays is:

Plasa, Carl, Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea; a reader's guide to essential criticism (Cambridge: Icon, 2001). Extracts from several of the critical works mentioned in the section on critical responses to Wide Sargasso Sea are included in this book.


This website has useful information on Jean Rhys and particularly the relationship between Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre.


A useful site for a bibliography of works by Jean Rhys and critical writings on her works.

Video / Film

Wide Sargasso Sea 1993 film Columbia / Tristar 

Dir. John Duigan (starring Nathaniel Parker, Karina Lombard)

Wide Sargasso Sea 2006 TV adaptation BBC4 

Dir. Brendan Maher (starring Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall)


Wide Sargasso Sea (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Audiobook] 

Jean Rhys (Author)

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