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Sunday, 12 December 2010

Jean Rhys at her melancholy best

I might suggest that these beautiful covers may lure you in to a false sense of literary security, but if you fail to miss the dark heavy eyes of these cover women then you are naive enough that no luring is needed. The beginning of reading for my second dissertation has been a melancholy, if beautiful, affair. These women face us alone on these covers, but not because they are independent. But because men have destroyed them and the only consolation left is solitude.

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie is introduced by an illustration by Faith Jaques, who was most famously an illustrator of picture books. Here her pen and ink portrait captures Julia's abject nature, her sense of shame and despair as life has beaten her down. Quartet is presented by a photograph by Sue Wilks. Marya stares at us coldly from the bleak desolation of the French sea. She asks us how things have ended this way? But she is completely distanced from us, beyond our care or hope. If I had judged the books by their covers I would have been unsurprised by the torpid misery of the narratives of these women. Unfortunately the excitement of finding Jean Rhys in the Amnesty bookshop made me careless and uncritical.


  1. I love Jean Rhys' novels. May I ask what the subject of your dissertation is Frangipan? Or do students keep this a secret?

  2. This dissertation is about women writing about walking in London between the world wars. So I am reading Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen amongst others.