The Chicago Tribune reviews Lilian Pizzichini’s The Blue Hour


US reviews of Lilian Pizzichini’s biography of Jean Rhys, The Blue Hour, are in following the publication of the book in its American edition. The Chicago Tribune writes that . . .

Lilian Pizzichini’s goal in her new biography, The Blue Hour, is also to rescue Rhys from the caricature of a life of ill repute and drunken dissolution. Yet the question remains: how to write a biography of someone who documented herself so mercilessly in her own novels, stories and the unfinished memoir “Smile Please”? Pizzichini makes the curious decision to write in a rhythmic impressionistic style that tries, and inevitably fails, to mimic Rhys. And it seems an odd choice for Pizzichini to ignore much of the archive, including the published letters or passages of the novels, in favor of her own biographical sketches. Ultimately Pizzichini focuses far too much on the woman Jean Rhys, and not enough on the strange tension between Rhys the woman and Rhys the writer. When Pizzichini writes about the works she does so with insight and empathy, yet passionate readers of Rhys and novitiates will come away wanting more of Rhys in her own words.

For the complete review go to,0,3498770.story

2 thoughts on “The Chicago Tribune reviews Lilian Pizzichini’s The Blue Hour

  1. This is an insensitive and grossly unintelligent review of the finest literary biography since Barbara Guest’s exemplary work on H.D. Any great literary biography should leave the reader “wanting more” of the author the biography delineates; thus what the reviewer sees as weakness is a great strength. The book is compellingly written and does justice to Rhys, who is, in my opinion, the finest English novelist after WWI up to and including the present day.

  2. This is actually a very fair review of the book, which I am currently struggling to read. It’s difficult, for two reasons. The author’s writing style is at the level of a teenage girls’ blog: she has no sense that the past is very different from the past, she has a tin ear for language, she pads out the narrative with potted histories and infodumps that would look better in Wikipedia, and she is incapable of distinguishing between fiction (rhys’s novels and stories) and fact, let alone doing any original research or clearly acknowledging the sources she plagiarises from. Even worse, the production standards of the book are truly appalling, with typos and factual errors on every single page. It seems not to have been copyedited or proofread at all. Bloomsbury (UK) and Norton (US) should be thoroughly ashamed of the disservice they have done to Jean Rhys, who deserves far better treatment than she gets from this book.

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