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Narcissism and its Discontents

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 21 February 1980

Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Jean Rhys.
Deutsch, 173 pp., £4.95, November 1980, 0 233 97213 7
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Jean RhysA Critical Study 
by Thomas Staley.
Macmillan, 140 pp., £10, November 1980, 0 333 24522 9
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My Blue Notebooks 
by Liane de Pougy, translated by Diana Athill.
Deutsch, 288 pp., £7.50, October 1980, 0 233 97141 6
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The Maimie Papers 
edited by Ruth Rosen and Sue Davidson.
Virago, 450 pp., £9.95, September 1980, 0 86068 114 9
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Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough 
by Hugo Vickers.
Weidenfeld, 299 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 297 77652 5
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... me I can see that he doesn’t think I am pretty. Oh God, let me be pretty when I grow up. Jean Rhys was 12 at the time of the wedding in Castries, on the island of St Lucia. At the age of six a photograph had been taken of her: she looked very pretty then in a new white dress. Three years later, she realised ‘with dismay that I wasn’t like it ...

Hagiography

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 3 March 1983

Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three 
by David Plante.
Gollancz, 173 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 0 575 03189 1
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... One evening in December 1975 David Plante called on his friend, the novelist Jean Rhys, who was staying in a hotel in South Kensington: ‘a big dreary hotel’, she said, ‘filled with old people whom they won’t allow to drink sweet vermouth’. She was sitting in what the receptionist called ‘the pink lounge’, wearing a pink hat ...

One Thing

John Bayley, 22 November 1990

Jean Rhys 
by Carole Angier.
Deutsch, 780 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 233 98597 2
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A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym 
by Hazel Holt.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 333 40614 1
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... things, ‘and the people to whom they happen.’ A reason for keeping away from Jean Rhys, but in any case they would hardly have appealed to each other. When she was young she liked adventurers, and married one, but later in her long life she preferred gentle and gentlemanly types who wanted to cherish her, though they seldom or never ...

All I can do

Carole Angier, 21 June 1984

Jean RhysLetters 1931-1966 
edited by Francis Wyndham and Diana Melly.
Deutsch, 336 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 223 97567 2
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... Jean Rhys always said, and certainly believed, that she didn’t want to be a writer. She only wrote, she said, because she was unhappy, and when she was happy, as she was in her twenty years of marriage to her third husband, she didn’t write at all. Now comes this extraordinary book to prove that this simply wasn’t true ...

Grandiose Moments

Frank Kermode, 6 February 1997

Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. II 
by Max Saunders.
Oxford, 696 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 19 212608 3
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... of being able to consult many surviving friends of Ford, including Allen Tate, Herbert Read, Jean Rhys and Rebecca West. He also had access to the papers of Ford’s mistress Violet Hunt and the Ford collections in various American libraries, notably those of Cornell and Princeton. Judd and Saunders were denied by death of useful contemporary ...

Dependencies

Elizabeth Young, 25 February 1993

The Case of Anna Kavan 
by David Callard.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, January 1993, 0 7206 0867 8
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... He was presumably referring to her heroin addiction. Friends and mentors over the years – Rhys Davies. Peter Owen, Brian Aldiss – have made considerable efforts to dispel such feelings of uncase by stressing how smart and cheerful she, was how little her drug addiction appeared to affect her. Such loyal friends did not wish her to be regarded as a ...

Hagiophagy

Elaine Showalter, 2 October 1997

Impossible Saints 
by Michèle Roberts.
Little, Brown, 308 pp., £14.99, May 1997, 0 316 63957 5
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... to produce a collection of stories ‘rivalling those of Colette and Katherine Mansfield and Jean Rhys all put together’. Angèle passes on advice from her brother Jim, a painter: ‘You have to make the problem part of the subject. So, obviously what you should do is write a story about writer’s block.’ In the cottage at Cahors, however, the ...
... and we became great friends. The other thing that bore fruit during my time at Deutsch was the Jean Rhys saga. I’d always thought her books were wonderful. I showed them to Diana, who agreed, but said we couldn’t republish them, and then we discovered that she was still alive. I read her immediately after the war, and I remember Anthony Powell ...

Problems

Peter Campbell, 1 October 1981

Early Disorder 
by Rebecca Josephs.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 186 pp., £5.50, September 1981, 0 571 12031 8
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A Star for the Latecomer 
by Bonnie Zindel.
Bodley Head, 186 pp., £3.95, March 1981, 0 370 30319 9
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Catherine loves 
by Timothy Ireland.
Bodley Head, 117 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 370 30292 3
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Jacob have I loved 
by Katherine Paterson.
Gollancz, 216 pp., £4.95, April 1981, 0 575 02961 7
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... in Willa’s bookshelf was not, however, an unnatural one: children switch from Ballet Shoes to Jean Rhys and then back to Ballet Shoes, as though they need, or relish, the contrast between bleak and comfortable moral universes. When adults turn to the children’s books of Richard Adams or K.M. Peyton it is because they, too, have an appetite for ...

On Sophie Collins

Stephanie Burt: Sophie Collins, 18 July 2019

... or found herself, in essays by Nuar Alsadir, Carolee Schneemann and Denise Riley, in a novel by Jean Rhys and a poem by Selima Hill. ‘I began to … believe,’ she wrote, ‘that [Hill’s poem] was speaking to me personally.’ Collins’s ‘earnest desire to consider’ these works ‘on their own terms’ sat uneasily beside her ‘fascination ...

Lament for the members of a class of masters

Gabriele Annan, 6 December 1990

The Snows of Yesteryear: Portraits for an Autobiography 
by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by H.F. Broch de Rothermann.
Chatto, 290 pp., £16.99, November 1990, 0 7011 3666 9
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... about how things aren’t what they used to be under the ancien régime. Like a Central European Jean Rhys, he never stops re-inventing himself and recycling his exceptionally picturesque and picaresque past. In his best-known work, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, the central figure admits as much to the second of his three wives: ‘I invent myself in my ...

Tom Phillips: An Interview

Tom Phillips, Adam Smyth and Gill Partington, 11 October 2012

... question about a genre or a tradition you see yourself in. In 1966 when you started A Humument, Jean Rhys published A Wide Sargasso Sea.TP: A connection.GP: Are you like Jean Rhys, rewriting a Victorian novel? Is that a tradition you’re in?TP: That’s a horrible book anyway. It’s a remake.GP: But is your ...

Hatching, Splitting, Doubling

James Lasdun: Smooching the Swan, 21 August 2003

Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self 
by Marina Warner.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.99, October 2002, 0 19 818726 2
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... Sylvie and Bruno stories, taking in works by Michelangelo, Col-eridge, Hogg, Stevenson, Kafka, Jean Rhys and numerous others. It is a short book, but dense. Warner’s highly complex line of argument, winding around so much material, and so tightly, produces a compacted, even crabbed architecture. You feel like you’ve stepped inside a miniaturised ...

Chiantishire

Michael Hofmann: Shirley Hazzard, 6 May 2021

Collected Stories 
by Shirley Hazzard.
Virago, 356 pp., £16.99, November 2020, 978 0 349 01295 7
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... stories offer introspection and revelation – but rarely together. In an essay (on Jean Rhys), she quotes La Fontaine: ‘Misfortune is a kind of innocence.’ And the obverse, too, one could say: innocence is a kind of misfortune. In an unusually abstract passage, she writes: ‘Knowledge ought to arise from, and in atonement of, a degree ...

Just off Lexham Gardens

John Bayley, 9 January 1992

Through a Glass Darkly: The life of Patrick Hamilton 
by Nigel Jones.
Scribner, 408 pp., £18.95, December 1991, 0 356 19701 8
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... he might have discovered a complete literary self and exploited its full powers. A Céline or a Jean Rhys might have been fulfilled by this sort of setback, but it is somehow characteristic of Hamilton that crisis blurred his creativity. That may be why in his later books the abjections of habit blur the outlines of the people he writes about, so that ...

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