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Jean Rhys (1890–1979)

Author of Wide Sargasso Sea

41+ Works 14,413 Members 360 Reviews 64 Favorited

About the Author

Jean Rhys, 1890 - 1979 Writer Jean Rhys was born in Roseau, Dominica, West Indies. Her father was a Welsh doctor and her mother was a Dominican Creole. Her heritage deeply influenced her life as well as her writing. At seventeen, her father sent her to England to attend the Perse School, Cambridge show more and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Unfortunately, she was forced to abandon her studies when her father died. Rhys worked as a chorus girl and ghostwrote a book on furniture. During World War I, she volunteered in a soldier canteen and, in 1918, worked in a pension office. In 1919, she went to Holland and married the French-Dutch journalist and songwriter Jean Langlet. They had two children, a daughter and a son who died as an infant. She began writing under the patronage of Ford Madox Ford. Her husband was sentenced to prison for illegal financial transactions. Her affair ended badly with Ford, and her marriage ended in divorce. In 1934, she married Leslie Tilden Smith who died in 1945. Two years later, she married Max Hamer who died in 1966. Rhys lived many years in the West Country, most often in great poverty. In 1927, Rhys' first collection of stories, "The Left Bank and Other Stories," was published. Her first novel, "Quartet" (1928), is considered to be an account of her affair with Ford Madox Ford told through Marya, a young English woman. In "Voyage in the Dark" (1934), the character is a young chorus girl involved with an older lover. She has also written "Good Morning, Midnight" (1939) and "Sleep It Off Lady" (1976) and the internationally acclaimed "Wide Sargasso Sea" (1960). Rhys was made a CBE in 1978 and received the W.H. Smith Award, the Royal Society of Literature Award and an Arts Council Bursart. Rhys died on May 14, 1979 in Exeter. In the same year, her unfinished autobiography "Smile Please" appeared. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Jean Rhys foto: Modernista

Works by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) 8,505 copies
Good Morning, Midnight (1939) 1,454 copies
Voyage in the Dark (1934) 828 copies
After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1931) 671 copies
Quartet (1928) 666 copies
Tigers Are Better-looking (1968) 230 copies
Sleep It Off Lady (1976) 221 copies
Let Them Call It Jazz (1976) 134 copies
Jean Rhys: Letters 1931-1966 (1984) 120 copies
Early Novels (1984) 27 copies

Associated Works

The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories (1989) — Contributor — 432 copies
Nothing But You: Love Stories From The New Yorker (1997) — Contributor — 186 copies
Erotica: Women's Writing from Sappho to Margaret Atwood (1990) — Contributor — 168 copies
The Big New Yorker Book of Cats (2013) — Contributor — 134 copies
Mistresses of the Dark [Anthology] (1998) — Contributor — 122 copies
The Penguin Book of Modern Women's Short Stories (1990) — Contributor — 100 copies
Women and Fiction: Volume 2 (1978) — Contributor — 73 copies
Nightshade: 20th Century Ghost Stories (1999) — Contributor — 65 copies
The Gender of Modernism: A Critical Anthology (1990) — Contributor — 64 copies
Indiscreet Journeys: Stories of Women on the Road (1989) — Contributor — 59 copies
Perversity (1925) — Translator, some editions — 57 copies
An Omnibus of 20th Century Ghost Stories (1989) — Contributor — 45 copies
Haunting Women (1988) — Contributor — 37 copies
The Secret Self: A Century of Short Stories by Women (1995) — Contributor — 34 copies
Modern Short Stories 2: 1940-1980 (1982) — Contributor — 12 copies
Penguin Modern Stories 1 (1969) — Contributor — 11 copies
Demons within, & other disturbing tales (1977) — Contributor — 6 copies
Wide Sargasso Sea [1993 film] (1993) — Original novel — 5 copies
Chill to the Sunlight: Tropical Stories of the Macabre (1978) — Contributor — 3 copies
早稲田文学増刊 女性号 (2017) — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Rhys, Jean
Legal name
Rees William, Ella Gwendolen (born)
Other names
Vivienne Gray
Emma Gray
Ella Gray
Date of death
Burial location
St. Matthew's Church Cheriton Fitzpaine, Mid Devon District, Devon, England
Country (for map)
United Kingdom
Roseau, Dominica, West Indies
Place of death
Exeter, Devon, England, UK
Places of residence
London, England, UK
Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon, England, UK
Paris, France
Vienna, Austria
Perse School for Girls, Cambridge
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
short-story writer
nude model
Williams, William Rees (father)
Williams, Minna (mother)
Lenglet, Willem Johan Marie (Jean) (first husband)
Tilden-Smith, Leslie (second husband)
Hamer, Max (third husband)
American Academy of Arts and Letters (Foreign Honorary ∙ Literature ∙ 1979)
Awards and honors
Order of the British Empire (Commander, 1978)
American Academy of Arts and Letters (Foreign Honorary, Literature, 1979)
Short biography
Ella Gwendoline Rees Williams wrote under the pseudonym Jean Rhys. She was born to a British-Creole family in the British colony of Dominica in the West Indies, and left the island in 1907. She began publishing her writing in the late 1920s. Her most famous work was Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which won the W.H. Smith Award and the Heinemann Award. In it, Rhys returned to her frequent themes of conflicting cultures, dominance and dependence. Jean Rhys died in Exeter, Devon, before finishing the autobiography she was working on. The incomplete text appeared posthumously under the title Smile Please (1979).



2. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys in Backlisted Book Club (March 2022)


This makes me look like a philistine, but there you have it. This sat on my bedside table for over a week and I never could get past page 9. Not my cup of tea.
dvoratreis | 37 other reviews | May 22, 2024 |
4/5 ⭐️s. In looking around, reviews are all over the place on this one. The writing was difficult to comprehend at times because of (I believe) the stream of consciousness POV shifts between Rochester and Antoinette, but I loved the challenge. I got lost inside Antoinette's mind and truly felt for her and her impossible situation. I now understand Rochester better, but that doesn't mean I like Mr. Byronic Badman anymore than I did in JANE EYRE. The descriptions of the landscape in Jamaica/Dominica were gorgeously lush; one could see why Antoinette's heart belonged there. A post-colonial look at Britain's and France's imposed domination over these islands was heartbreaking to read, but I learned so much history about this period that I didn't know before.… (more)
crabbyabbe | 254 other reviews | May 14, 2024 |
I finished it, but I was confused, couldnt follow it, it made no sense. Its supposed to be the pre-quel to Jane Eyre which is such a wonderful idea, but I was befuddled and did not enjoy it.
Poyma | 12 other reviews | May 12, 2024 |
She spoke as if she were trying to recall a book she had read or a story she had heard and Mr Horsfield felt irritated by her vagueness, 'because', he thought, 'your life is your life and you must be pretty definite about it. Or if it's a story you are making up, you ought at least to have it pat.'

A strange, lonely, forceful novel, entirely in line with Rhys' canon. Julia Martin, the novel's central character, is a sort of down-at-heel Lily Bart, the heroine from Wharton's The House of Mirth. A woman reliant on the charity of others, especially men, never quite strong enough to continue on her own but also uncertain if, or how, she could do so anyway. Flitting between a lonely London and a lonely Paris, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie is a study of those lost in the cracks of society, of the kind of cafard found in late 19th century naturalist paintings, and of the slow urban isolation felt, then, especially by women, and now, perhaps, by many more of us?… (more)
therebelprince | 14 other reviews | Apr 21, 2024 |


Cooper (1)
1930s (2)
1960s (2)
AP Lit (1)


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