As some of you may recall, back in May I posted an announcement about the Jean Rhys Reading Week that will be taking place from Monday 12th to Sunday 18th September. In essence, it’s a week centred on reading and discussing the work of this remarkable writer.
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 down. You can read a little more about her here in these articles from The Guardian and The Paris Review.
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 issued 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.
Eric Karl Anderson, who writes so eloquently about books at the Lonesome Reader blog, will be joining me in co-hosting the reading week. Eric is a long-standing fan of Jean Rhys, so it will be fantastic to have his input. Poppy Peacock (who writes about books at poppy peacock pens) and Margaret Reardon (another long-standing Rhys fan) will also be helping us with a couple of activities during the week. Between the four of us, we’re planning to cover pretty much all of Rhys’ work to give a broad view of her oeuvre. We’d love as many readers as possible to get involved by reading one of more of Rhys’ books (or even a relevant biography).
With a few weeks to go before the start of the week, we just wanted to give you an overview of what will be happening during the week and to let you know how you can get involved. Ideally we’d love you to read something by Rhys (or a book connected to her work) and then to share your thoughts about it via one or more of the following routes:
- If you have a blog, you could write a review or article about the book and post it there.
- Alternatively, share your thoughts on GoodReads. We’ve set up a ‘Jean Rhys Reading Week’ group on GoodReads with a discussion topic for each book, plus one on Rhys’ life – do join if you use GR.
- Tweet about it on Twitter using the hashtag #ReadingRhys.
- Add your comments to other readers’/bloggers’ reviews/posts which will be going up throughout the week.
You can post your reviews and comments at any time from 12th-18th September, it’s entirely up to you.
To give you an idea of what each of us will be focusing on, here’s a schedule for the reviews/posts we are planning to issue during the week.
Monday 12th September
- Welcome to #ReadingRhys, plans for the week + After Leaving Mr Mackenzie* – Jacqui (at JacquiWine’s Journal)
- Welcome to #ReadingRhys, plans for the week + Good Morning, Midnight – Eric (at Lonesome Reader)
- Voyage in the Dark – Eric (at Lonesome Reader)
- Tigers are Better-Looking (short stories) – Jacqui (at JacquiWine’s Journal)
- Wide Sargasso Sea – Eric (at Lonesome Reader)
- Quartet – Poppy (at poppy peacock pens)
- An interview with a special guest – Jacqui (at JacquiWine’s Journal)
- Good Morning, Midnight – Margaret (at newedition.ca)
- Smile Please – Eric (at Lonesome Reader)
- Rhys’ Letters: 1931-66 – Poppy (at poppy peacock pens)
- The Left Bank (short stories) – Jacqui (at JacquiWine’s Journal)
(*I’ve already written a piece about After Leaving Mr Mackenzie here, but I’ll be revisiting the novel with my book group in early September.)
Between the four of us, we’ll be taking responsibility for visiting your blogs, the relevant GoodReads threads and reading comments on Twitter etc. At the end of the week, we’ll pull together some brief summaries of everyone’s responses to the books with a view to posting these on our blogs and the GoodReads group area during w/c 19th September.
So that’s the plan for the week. You can post your reviews and comments at any time, and we’ll visit when we can. Do add the banner (near the top of this piece) to your own posts as and when they go up and feel free to add it your blog if you’re planning to participate. Please use the #ReadingRhys hashtag in any Twitter comms about the event.
***** Good Morning, Midnight Giveaway! *****
As a little incentive, we have 5 copies of the brand new Pocket Penguins edition of Good Morning, Midnight to giveaway. For a chance to win one of these prizes, please tell us what you’re planning to read for #ReadingRhys week in the comments below.
The giveaway will run until midnight on Thursday 25th August (UK time) after which time we will select five winners at random. It’s open to everyone worldwide, so please feel free to enter wherever you live. Do include a note of your contact details in your comments, either an email address or Twitter/GoodReads handle. Good luck!
We’re really looking forward to discussing Rhys’ work and we hope you will join us during the week.
In the meantime, if you have any comments, queries or suggestions for the Jean Rhys Reading Week (#ReadingRhys), please leave a comment here or get in touch with one of us via Twitter. We tweet at @JacquiWine, @lonesomereader, @poppypeacock and @2daffylou.