Monday, September 11, 2006

What was I saying about trying to read Jean Rhys without much success? Well that cant be said to be the case right now. I finished “Quartet” on Sunday morning. The novel, which is really a novella, is 140 pages long and very intense. Loneliness, exploitation, social degradation and displacement are just some of the themes dealt with in this novel. It’s set in bohemian Paris of the 1920’s. The main protagonists are ex-pats from England.

Jean Rhys knew all about displacement, born in 1890 in the Dominican Republic to a Creole mother and a Welsh father she travelled to England aged sixteen only to be socially rejected because of her mixed race background.

Rhys subsequently travelled to Paris where she was encouraged to write by Ford Madox Ford. Her first collection of short stories “The Left Bank and Other Stories” was published in 1927 and between then and 1939 four other novels followed. The novels were years ahead of their time though none were commercially successful.

After that Jean Rhys drifted into obscurity and it was thought that she was long dead. It was only with the publication in 1966 of her novel “Wide Sargasso Sea” that Jean Rhys received the deserved literary credit. Her comment on literary success was that it had come “Too late”.

Jean Rhys died in May 1979.

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