Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What-I'm-Reading-Wednesday: Jean Rhys, The Complete Novels

Twentieth century Caribbean novelist Jean Rhys is perhaps best known for her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, but her work spanned her entire lifetime and included many other novels, short stories, essays, and autobiographical works. This collection of Rhys' novels includes Wide Sargasso Sea, as well as Voyage in the Dark, Quartet, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, and Good Morning, Midnight. The collection also includes photographs by Brassaï to accompany the novels.

Rhys often drew on her own experiences for the foundations of her novels, writing frequently of her childhood on the island of Dominica in the British West Indies, and her subsequent young adult years at a boarding school in England. Voyage in the Dark is thought to be mostly autobiographical, detailing a young woman's experience of migrating from the West Indies and being lured into a life of "modeling" which led to prostitution. Her depictions of Caribbean life are equally as vivid as the portrait she paints of life on the London streets.

Violence toward and the exploitation of women were common themes in Rhys' work. She was acutely aware of the fragile balancing act involved in emotional and sexual relationships between men and women, particularly in early twentieth century Britain. Her writing often featured domestic abuse, the dominance of men over women, and the dependence of women upon men. In Wide Sargasso Sea, an award-winning work of speculative fiction, she brings to light the first Mrs. Rochester, the mad woman in the attic from Jane Eyre, giving a voice to a character critical to the classic work but mostly unheard.

Request Jean Rhys, The Complete Novels from the Library catalog. Click on the "Availability" link on the catalog record, then click on the yellow "Request" button. Log in using your 14-digit Library barcode number (located on your University ID), and your last name. You will then be able to select your pick-up location. The Library will notify you via email when your book has arrived for pick-up. If you need assistance with this process, please contact the Circulation Desk at 301-687-4395.

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