Miranda Seymour on the Haunted Life of Jean Rhys
An intimate, revealing and profoundly moving biography of Jean Rhys, acclaimed author of Wide Sargasso Sea.
An obsessive and troubled genius, Jean Rhys is one of the most compelling and unnerving writers of the twentieth century. Memories of a conflicted Caribbean childhood haunt the four fictions that Rhys wrote during her extraordinary years as an exile in 1920s Paris and later in England. Rhys's experiences of heartbreak, poverty, notoriety, breakdowns and even imprisonment all became grist for her writing, forming an iconic 'Rhys woman' whose personality - vulnerable, witty, watchful and angry - was often mistaken, and still is, for a self-portrait.
Many details of Rhys's life emerge from her memoir, Smile Please and the stories she wrote throughout her long and challenging career. But it's a shock to discover that no biographer - until now - has researched the crucial seventeen years that Rhys spent living on the remote Caribbean island of Dominica; the island which haunted Rhys's mind and her work for the rest of her life.
Luminous and penetrating, Seymour's biography reveals a proud and fiercely independent artist, one who experienced tragedy and extreme poverty, alcohol and drug dependency, romantic and sexual turmoil - and yet was never a victim. I Used to Live Here Once enables one of our most excitingly intuitive biographers to uncover the hidden truth about a fascinatingly elusive woman. The figure who emerges for Seymour is powerful, cultured, self-mocking, self-absorbed, unpredictable and often darkly funny. Persuasive, surprising and compassionate, this unforgettable biography brings Jean Rhys to life as never before.
'An absolute belter of a biography' MARINA HYDE
A Times Literary Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2022
An LA Times Best Book of the Year 2022
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