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After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1931)

by Jean Rhys

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A curious book. Short, unsure of its destination. Middle class penniless woman drifts from loan to loan from ex partners. Removed from its time does it have anything to say? ( )
  Steve38 | Dec 21, 2017 |
A slim novel, ‘After Leaving Mr Mackenzie’ is the second novel by Jean Rhys, published in 1931. Semi-autobiographical, it tells the story of a young woman [if a woman in her mid-thirties can be called young] who faces up to the realities of life after a love affair ends. The title is not strictly true because Julia did not leave Mr Mackenzie, he left her.
She moves to a cheap hotel room where the furnishings are faded and the only decoration is a poor painting which she assumes must have been left in lieu of debt by a previous tenant. Where Rhys excels is her description of the small details, drawing a picture of Julia’s surroundings and her moods. ‘She found pleasure in memories, as an old woman might have done. Her mind was a confusion of memory and imagination. It was always places that she thought of, not people. She would like thinking of the dark shadows of houses in a street white with sunshine; or of trees with slender black branches and young green leaves, like the trees of a London square in spring; or of a dark-purple sea, the sea of a chromo or of some tropical country that she had never seen.’ Like the title of the novel, it is not always clear what is true and what is imagination.
After the death of her baby and the breakdown of her marriage, which is not really explained, Julia survives in Paris thanks to the men she dates. They give her cash, buy her clothes, pay for her lodging; in this, Julia is similar to Marya in Rhys’ first novel ‘Quartet’. This novel takes a step further in that when her maintenance payments stop, Julia takes action to help her situation. After unsuccessfully asking Mr Mackenzie for cash, she is helped by a stranger, Mr Horsfield. Julia buys new clothes and a train ticket to London where she visits her sister who cares for their dying mother.
This is a study of one woman’s desperate situation and her dependency on others. Julia is a sad woman with a past, shabby, as if wearing a sign around her neck saying ‘trouble’. The delight in reading this book is how Rhys tells Julia’s story, as much as the story itself.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Nov 23, 2017 |
Beautifully written. There are sentences like this from chapter 9:

“Julia watched the shadows as they passed – the angular shadows of houses and the dark, slender shadows of the leafless branches, like an uneven row of dancers in the position 'Arabesque'.”

There are also loads of antitheses. The novel's packed with them, but in the architecture rather than the sentence structure.

Julia's a superbly drawn character. She's a weird, selfish parasite. So well drawn that I found the novel frustrating and disturbing while at the same time enjoying it. ( )
1 vote Lukerik | Oct 9, 2015 |
Quietly devastating. ( )
1 vote proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Quietly devastating. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
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After she had parted from Mr Mackenzie, Julia Martin want to live in a cheap hotel on the Quai des Grands Augustins.
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Julie felt to old & tired to worry about men, but she knew she could not survive without them. For six months she had lived alone in a drab Parisian hotel on an allowance from her ex-lover, Mr Mackenzie. When his cheques stopped coming, she supposed there was no alternative but to return to London and try again.… (more)

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