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Where to start with: Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys’s prequel to Jane Eyre, is a set text in schools but are you familiar with the rest of the Dominica-born writer’s work? This handy guide from her biographer [Miranda Seymour] will help you find a way in.

Most people know Jean Rhys as the author of Wide Sargasso Sea, a title often featured on school and university reading lists. But that prequel to Jane Eyre was actually the Dominica-born author’s last book, and there are riches in store for those who haven’t yet explored the rest of her work. Her biographer Miranda Seymour suggests some good places to start.

The entry point “‘Smile please,’ the man said. ‘Not quite so serious.’” It is this opening line that gives the autobiography Smile Please its title, as a young Rhys fails to do as she’s told when posing for a photo. The biggest surprise when reading this luminous memoir of the author’s early life in the Caribbean, London and Paris, is that she started writing it in her 70s. It was the first thing by Rhys that I read and I fell in love with her voice on the spot. I can’t imagine a better way to get to know her.

To continue reading turn to the Guardian website, April 27, 2022

For a fine introduction to her work in Dutch read Jan Brokken on Rhys

on 01.05.2022 at 19:41
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