Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys (rēs), pseud. of Ella Gwendoline Rees Williams, 1894–1979, English novelist, b. Dominica. Her novels written in the 1930s mercilessly exploit her own emotional life, depicting pretty, no-longer-young women who find themselves down and out in large European cities. Without work or funds, her characters must depend on men, chance encounters, or former lovers, for money to buy a hotel room, a drink, a pair of gloves. Rhys's vision is uncompromising and her literary style is spare. These early works include Quartet (1929), After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1931), and Good Morning, Midnight (1938). After a long retirement she published her masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which drew equally on her own Caribbean childhood and on a reimagining of Charlotte Brönte's Jane Eyre from the perspective of Rochester's mad West Indian wife. It was followed by three short-story collections and Smile Please (1979), the first volume of an autobiography.

See biographies by C. Angier (1990) and L. Pizzichini (2009); F. Wyndham and D. Melly, ed., The Letters of Jean Rhys (1984); studies by T. Staley (1979), P. Wolfe (1980), D. Plante (1983), T. F. O'Connor (1986), N. R. Harrison (1988), M. L. Emery (1990), P. M. Frickey, ed. (1990), P. Le Gallez (1990), C. A. and D. Malcolm (1996), S. Sternlicht (1997), S. Maurel (1998), E. Savory (1998), S. Thomas (1999), C. Dell'Amico (2005), A. B. Simpson (2005), and C. Maslen (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Jean Rhys: Selected full-text books and articles

The Worlding of Jean Rhys By Sue Thomas Greenwood Press, 1999
Jean Rhys's Historical Imagination: Reading and Writing the Creole By Veronica Marie Gregg University of North Carolina Press, 1995
Faith of a (Woman) Writer By Alice Kessler-Harris; William McBrien Greenwood Press, 1988
Deconstruction, Imperialism and the West Indian Novel By Glyne A. Griffith University of the West Indies Press, 1996
Women in Twentieth-Century Literature: A Jungian View By Bettina L. Knapp Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987
Jean Rhys By Elaine Savory Cambridge University Press, 1999
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