The Independent Reviews New Rhys Biography


Under the title “Jean Rhys: Prostitution, Alcoholism and the Mad Woman in the Attic,” London’s Independent newspaper has published today its review of The Blue Hour: A Portrait of Jean Rhys, By Lilian Pizzichini. As the title suggests, Pizzichini’s sensationalistic notion of Rhys as a prostitute—poor Jean—is at the forefront of the review. Here is an excerpt (the link to the review follows):

“It was Ford who gave her the name Jean Rhys, and it was Ford who taught her how to channel her experiences into publishable prose. Feminism doesn’t like to think of women writers owing their success to a male partner. It’s been a feminist project, quite rightly, to see them as autonomous subjects who forged their own paths through a male-dominated world. Patriarchal oppression made it necessary to ignore the contributions the men in those women’s lives had made; never should we voice the suggestion that, without that male partner, a woman writer might never have been published. Yet, in Rhys’s case, it’s substantially true. Without Ford’s help, it’s possible that she would never have been published at all. Her dependence on men, her pose in Paris as the helpless ingénue, when she was actually a 34-year-old wife and mother, came naturally to Rhys, and however uncomfortable that is for feminism, it’s what helped to make her a literary success so many years later. That contradiction between the ingénue and the experienced woman proved too much for Ford. Their affair came to a sticky end: Rhys resented being cast off, and struck him across the face at a café. Then she did what she’d been taught to do: she wrote, and wrote about the affair, in a 1928 novel called Quartet. She returned to England, alone, and married her second husband, the literary agent Leslie Tilden Smith, who had, ironically enough, been recommended to her by Ford.”

For the complete review go to

The portrait above can be found at

One thought on “The Independent Reviews New Rhys Biography

  1. This analysis only gives reason to feminist approach,diminishing Jean Rhys’ value, by trying to give her sponsor the merit for her work. I love Jean Rhys’ work and never saw her as a feminist heroin, more like a patriarchal and racist society victim! Every writer work is based on their experiences and the influence of the people they know, the help of their friends and support of the one’s that admire them, as Ford Madox admired Jean. So what?

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