J is for “Jean Rhys; Life and Work” by Carole Angier.
One of my favourite books is “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys. This is a prequel to Jane Eyre, and tells the story of Rochester’s mad wife in the attic. It covers her childhood in the Caribbean and her marriage to a man who does not understand her and her culture. I usually avoid prequels or sequels by other authors hoping to cash in on a famous book. But this not the case here. “Wild Sargasso Sea” can easily stand on its own, it not being until the last third of the book that we even realize who the heroine is.
Rhys herself was born in 1890 in Dominica in the British East Indies so she brings a deep understanding of the setting of the first half “Wide Sargasso Sea. This book is considered an excellent example of post-colonial literature. However, enough of the novel. The biography I am featuring tells us of Rhys’s life as she goes to England. attends the royal Academy of Dramatic Art, becomes the mistress of a wealthy man, and finally begins to write.
She had a difficult life. She rarely had much money, was involved with many men, the most widely known being Ford Maddox Ford. Rhys was rediscovered in the seventies and finally achieved some fame and enough money to live a comfortable old age. Angier does an excellent and thorough job of presenting Rhys’s life to us.