Canvassing interest in a Jean Rhys Reading Week

Back in March when I wrote about Jean Rhys’ third novel, Voyage in the Dark, Grant (of 1streading’s blog) commented that he had a stack of Rhys books just waiting to be read. If only someone would hold a Rhys reading week (hint, hint), then it might encourage him to get started. So with this in mind, along with my own interest in tackling another of her books in the not too distant future, I’d like to canvass interest in the possibility of a Jean Rhys reading week later this year. You know the type of thing: a week-long event where readers would read a book (or even a short story or two) by Rhys and share their thoughts by posting a review on their blog, by talking about it on Twitter/other social media channels or by commenting on the reviews/chatter posted during the week. (Even if you’ve already read everything by Rhys, maybe you could revisit a favourite?)

Jean Rhys

(Image from theguardian.com)

If you’re wondering who Jean Rhys is or was, she is widely considered to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. The daughter of a white Creole mother and a Welsh father, Rhys grew up on the Caribbean Island of Dominica, moving to England at the age of sixteen to live with an aunt. After the death of her father, she drifted into a series of jobs spending time as a chorus girl, a mannequin, and an artist’s model. Rhys led a tough and tortured life, but in many ways those harsh experiences made her the writer she was. (Her work is now considered to have been way ahead of its time.) She started writing when the first of her three marriages broke up. You can read a little more about her here in these articles from The Guardian and The Paris Review.

IMG_2857

During her lifetime, Rhys published five novels: Quartet (1929); After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1931); Voyage in the Dark (1934); Good Morning, Midnight (1939); and Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). She also wrote several short stories – a number of collections have been published and are still available to buy secondhand if you’re willing to hunt around. There is a series of letters too, plus Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography.

Please let me know in the comments if you would be interested in participating in a Rhys reading week. If so, it would be useful to hear if you have any preferences on timings. If there’s sufficient interest in an event, then I’m thinking either early-mid July or the beginning of September. That way, we could avoid the school holidays and any clashes with Women in Translation Month which runs during August. Also, if you would be interested in co-hosting the event with me, please let me know – I’m still fairly new to Rhys, so it would be useful to have someone with a bit more experience under their belt to act as a co-host. You can contact me here or via Twitter (@JacquiWine). Finally, any shares of this post would be much appreciated, just to spread the word and to enable me to gauge the level of interest. Cheers.

79 thoughts on “Canvassing interest in a Jean Rhys Reading Week

  1. MarinaSofia

    Even my internet connecion perked up at this and allows me to post a reply: yes, yes, most certainly count me in. And if it’s after August, I may even have access to English-language libraries so I can participate even more (I only have about 4-5 of her books and also want to read a biography about her).

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Brilliant! It’ll be great to have you aboard, Marina. I’ll take a view on timings once the replies have come in (good idea about the biography, btw). Hope you get your internet connection sorted soon.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, that’s great! Glad to hear you have a Rhys in the 746, Cathy. I’ll take a view on timings once the replies have come in, but hopefully we can work something out that suits the majority. :)

      Reply
  2. roughghosts

    I would love to read something by Rhys (Sargasso Sea is the only one I’ve read) and maybe this would give me the opportunity. I am so far behind reading and reviewing for my blog because I’ve gotten myself recklessly committed to outside reviews which generally take much longer. I spent the entire day trying to write my next Numero Cinq review which is due today (well, I’ll still call it tomorrow) and I’ve written two paragraphs! But I’ll keep my eye out for something skinny and try to join in if it’s a go.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Well, it’s looking likely based on the replies so far. It’d be great to have you on board, Joe. And the good news is, most of her books are very slim. I haven’t read WSS (well, not yet), but her early books are quite different – hopefully we can tempt you to try one of those.

      Reply
  3. kaggsysbookishramblings

    I’d love to join in Jacqui – I own quite a lot of Rhys but most of unread so definitely count me in! 😀

    Reply
      1. naomifrisby

        September would work better for me, I think. Everything looks so busy before August! I’ll still take part if it’s July, it’ll just mean some juggling.

        Reply
  4. Caroline (Bookword)

    Great idea. I’d definitely join you in a Jean Rhys. Her own story is amazing and largely sad. Diane Athill writes about her later life rediscovery and publishing career in one of her memoirs. Carol Angiers wrote a biography.
    My comments on Good Morning Midnight are still being read after nearly three years. There would be interest in such a week.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, that’a brilliant, Caroline. Thank you. I really want to read more about her life. There are a couple of biographies as far as I’m aware – I’ve certainly seen one by Lilian Pizzichini (The Blue Hour). Would you recommend the Angiers? I’ll have to look it up.

      Reply
  5. Lady Fancifull

    Count me in Jacqui. I have several battered and well loved Rhys’ on the shelves and as re-reads are at the moment seeming more likely to make my top fiction reads of the year than new novels, it will be a pleasure to revisit her. I also really appreciate the wider views possible when several of us are reading and reviewing. Good call. Easy on either timing

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Fab! That’s great news, Lady F. I’m sure Rhys will reward a second reading whichever of her novels you choose to revisit. Good to know you’re easy on the timings – thanks for that. :)

      Reply
  6. Tredynas Days

    I read WSSea many years ago and remember v little of it, so would like to join in if I can – depends on timing. As others have said, I’m still way behind on my ‘to read’ pile, but am easily distracted. So a qualified ‘yes’!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Cool. September seems to be emerging as the best time (based on the responses so far), but I’ll confirm during the week. Would that suit you, Simon? Would be great to have you on board.

      Reply
  7. Abby K

    Yes! Her work is so underrated in my opinion so this is such a great idea Jacqui. I love her stories and her characters. Count me in!

    Reply
  8. heavenali

    I would love a Jean Rhys reading week. I’ve only read Wide Sargasso Sea (3 tines) and After Leaving Mr Mckenzie I really need to read more. I especially want to read Voyage in the dark.

    Reply
  9. BookerTalk

    If things go my way I will retire in September so the timing would work perfectly. I’ve only read Sargasso Sea so far and don’t have anything g in my bookshelves sadly.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Well, you might be lucky as September is looking the more likely option so far. Will confirm later in the week once others have had time to respond. :)

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Hooray! Thanks, madame bibi. Wonderful to have you along. And it’s good to know you’re flexible on the timings – that’s useful to know. :)

      Reply
  10. Sarah

    I’ve only read ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ and this sounds like a great opportunity to explore something else by this wonderful writer. Count me in! :)

    Reply
  11. Donald

    Count me in! Presently I am immersed in Ford Madox Ford and his tetralogy “Parade’s End”. Ford was an early champion and influence of and on Rhys (i believe there was even a short affair), so I would be more than happy to tackle her work.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Fab! You’re right on both counts, their lives were connected. (I really must read one of the biographies.) Sounds like a good fit with your current reading.

      Reply
  12. Anokatony

    In my case, reading Jean Rhys would be revisiting a favorite, but it is probably time I did that. Somehow when I think of Jean Rhys, I think of Colette.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Excellent news. It’s good to revisit a favourite writer every now and again. I can understand why Colette might come to mind too – I really ought to read more of her.

      Reply
  13. Lisa Guidarini

    Yes! I’ve read Wide Sargasso and I believe I have other titles in my Virago collection.

    Reply
  14. Poppy Peacock

    Oh absolutely count me in… got novels, short-stories & biography I’d read (some revisits). Prefer avoiding August as that’s #WITMonth but otherwise will make room. Excellent idea and great to see so many up for it😀❤📚

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Fab! so glad you’re up for it, Poppy. Sounds like you’re all set there. Yes, I’m keen to avoid August on account of #WITMonth (plus it’s the school holidays which might be inconvenient for some). September seems to be emerging as the preferred option, but we’ll see how the responses go. Will confirm next week. :)

      Reply
  15. Jessica Norrie

    I’ve been a Jean Rhys reader for many decades… may not be around in September but if I am will happily join in and and have tweeted about this idea. Have you also read any Katharine Mansfield – not exactly from the same stable since they were hardly horses(!) , but has similar resonances and themes.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Many thanks for your support Jessica, and I hope the timings work out for you. (September is looking like the best option, but I’ll confirm later in the week once all the responses are in.) Interesting you should mention Katherine Mansfield as I have a volume of her stories to read. It’ll be good to compare at some point!

      Reply
  16. Bellezza

    I’d love to read Jean Rhys with you (and the others). I’ve been meaning to read Wide Sargasso Sea for a million years. I’ve already committed to La Regenta with Tom of Wuthering Expectations for July, so I vote for early September, but the book I want to read is a short one, so surely I should be able to fit it in when you deem is best. Great suggestion!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Wonderful news, Bellezza! It will be a pleasure to have you along for a Rhys Read (I suspect Wide SS will be a popular one). Early September seems to be emerging as the most convenient option, but I’ll confirm later this week once all the responses are back. (La Regenta, that’s a huge undertaking – I do admire your commitment to these big group reads!)

      Reply
  17. pollymarshall

    Hi Jacqui As per my tweet I’m interested. I read her as a literature student at Oxford in the 80s. My tutors knew nothing about her, so I had to teach myself!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s great, Polly – you are most welcome to join us! It’s interesting to hear about your experience at Oxford…Rhys was under the radar for such a long time.

      Reply
  18. Séamus Duggan

    Wide Saragossa Sea is sitting on my shelves and is one of the larger gaps in my reading so this should give me an opportunity to read and the push necessary to write something about the experience.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Terrific! I really hope you can join in, Seamus, Would be great to see what you make of WSS. It’s looking like September so it should give you plenty of time.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s fair enough Caroline (and I recall you saying you’d read them all). Oddly enough, I’m experiencing something similar with Virginia Woolf – haven’t read them all, but the two I have read are so closely linked to a terrible period in my life that I’m struggling with the thought of returning to her. (It’s proving harder than I’d imagined when Ali announced the #Woolfalong at the end of last year.)

      Reply
  19. Kate Braithwaite

    Definitely interested! Great idea. I have several (unread) on my shelves and there is a lot more to her – I’m thinking Wide Sargasso Sea and beyond… or something like that! September would be good for me. Might it be good to have different people ‘host’ different books?

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s great news. September definitely seems to be the preferred option so everything should work out. That’s a good thought about sharing the hosting – I’ve got a co-host now so we’ll start planning over the summer months. Thanks for dropping by.

      Reply
  20. Scott W.

    Oh sure, I’ll give her another try. I read Wide Sargasso Sea a gazillion years ago and do not recall anything about it – perhaps all the more reason for a re-visit.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Great! You might want to try one of her early novels? I haven’t read WSS (well, not yet), but I get the feeling it’s quite different to her early work.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s terrific, and the timings should work as September is looking to be the most convenient option – I’ll confirm the dates at the weekend.

      Reply
  21. TJ @ MyBookStrings

    I’m a few days late to add my enthusiasm to your query, but I will gladly join in. It might be the push I need to finally pick up Good Morning, Midnight again and finish it.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Excellent! It would be great to have you on board, TJ. I remember you saying that you’d tried before with Good Morning, Midnight. Hopefully you’ll be able to pick it up again.

      Reply
  22. looloolooweez

    I’m glad to see you’ve gotten so many positive responses & I’m happy to add my voice to the crowd. Wide Sargasso Sea is on my to-do list for this year anyway because of the Women’s Classic Lit event CC is doing. I think it would be fun to read it along with other Jean Rhys readers at the same time.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Yes, it’s been lovely to see such a positive response! That sounds like a great fit. I’ve just posted an announcement about the dates – we’ve gone for 12th-18th September, so I hope that works for you.

      Reply
  23. Pingback: Announcing Jean Rhys Reading Week: 12th-18th September 2016 | JacquiWine's Journal

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