The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys

Lilian Pizzichini, Author . Norton $29.95 (322p) ISBN 978-0-393-05803-1

The genius of novelist Jean Rhys (1890–1979) is painfully depicted in this compelling short biography, exploring what it was like to live such a tortured life. Rhys was overlooked for decades until Wide Sargasso Sea , her postmodern shift of emphasis on Jane Eyre , became an instant sensation in 1966. Three times married to ne’er-do-wells and enduring an unhappy dollop of motherhood, Rhys was better known as the lover of Ford Maddox Ford. According to British author Pizzichini (Dead Man’s Wages ), both Ford’s “predatory paternalism” and his novelist’s flattery attracted and repelled her, as did the criminal element of society. Pizzichini searches Rhys’s background for clues to her self-destructive judgments. Born in Dominica as Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, she was later a free-spirited young outsider in starchy, empirical England and elsewhere in Europe. Stuck with men who couldn’t make ends meet, Rhys had a brief career in prostitution and also worked as a chorus girl. Evocative and empathetic, Pizzichini still offers no fully satisfactory explanation for the explosiveness of Rhys’s interior life: “She found life difficult because she found it hard to be herself.” 20 photos. (Apr. 29)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 322 pages - 978-0-7475-9740-7
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-393-07939-5
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