Episode 44: Jean Rhys: Voyages in the Dark
The writer Jean Rhys is best known for Wide Sargasso Sea, her haunting prequel to Jane Eyre, yet her own life would have made for an equally compelling novel. Miranda Seymour, author of the definitive Jean Rhys biography I Used to Live Here Once, joins the Slightly Foxed team to follow Rhys’s often rackety life and shine light on her writing. Born Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams on the island of Dominica, she dreamed of being an actress. And she did play many roles over the years: raconteur, recluse, wife (three times), grieving mother, enthusiastic drinker . . . But her most important role was that of a writer. We begin in the Caribbean with Smile Please, Rhys’s unfinished autobiography of her early years, where we meet a white creole girl who feels like an outsider. This feeling lingers, whether she is living in squalid London, on Paris’s Left Bank or in rural Devon. The women in her novels feel it too: Anna adrift in London in Voyage in the Dark, Julia leaving Paris in After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, Antoinette bound for Mr Rochester’s attic in Wide Sargasso Sea.