Plans for #ReadingRhys, a week devoted to the work of Jean Rhys

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.

JeanRhysReadingWeek banner

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.

#ReadingRhys Schedule:

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)

Tuesday 13th

  • Voyage in the Dark – Eric (at Lonesome Reader)

Wednesday 14th

  • Tigers are Better-Looking (short stories) – Jacqui (at JacquiWine’s Journal)

Thursday 15th

  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Eric (at Lonesome Reader)
  • Quartet – Poppy (at poppy peacock pens)

Friday 16th

  • An interview with a special guest – Jacqui (at JacquiWine’s Journal)

Saturday 17th

  • Good Morning, Midnight – Margaret (at newedition.ca)
  • Smile Please – Eric (at Lonesome Reader)

Sunday 18th

  • 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.

GMM

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.

42 thoughts on “Plans for #ReadingRhys, a week devoted to the work of Jean Rhys

    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Excellent. A good place to start, I think. The members of my book group are reading Mr Mackenzie at the mo – it’ll be interesting to see what they make of it.

      Reply
  1. bookbii

    I’m really looking forward to this Jacqui. I have Voyage in the Dark already, and am hoping to acquire a copy of Smile Please before the week arrives. Fantastic to hear about everything that will be going on.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thank, Belinda – that’s good to hear. I loved Voyage, so I’ll be very interested to see your response to it. Smile Please sounds fascinating too – I’m hoping to dip into it myself before the week starts, just to try to learn a little more about her life.

      Reply
      1. bookbii

        It’s interesting how reading a writer’s work also makes us curious about their life. I think reading about a writer, biographies or letters, can add a new dimension to their work. If you do manage to read some of Smile Please, I would be very much interested in your insight.

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          Yes, totally. I feel the same way about Joan Didion, her memoir Magical Thinking adding to my understanding of her as a person, her thought processes and drivers. I’m not sure I’ll get a chance to write about Smile Please, but we’ll see how things go. Eric will be covering it though, so I’m sure his post will be very insightful.

          Reply
  2. Abby K

    Really love the idea for this week! I would like to read Good Morning, Midnight again and hopefully I’ll have time to read Wide Sargasso Sea too. Thanks for co-hosting the #ReadingRhys week Jacqui!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You’re very welcome, Abby. We’re just so thrilled to see the level of interest in reading Rhys’ work. That sounds great – I’ve yet to read either of those books, so I’m very curious to hear more!

      Reply
  3. madamebibilophile

    I’m really looking forward to this Jacqui! I’m planning on reading After Leaving Mr Mackenzie and Good Morning Midnight. I also have Sleep It Off Lady on the TBR mountain so if I can I’ll squeeze that in too. Thanks so much for organising and for prompting me to read more by this wonderful writer :-)

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You’re very welcome, Madame bibi – delighted to hear you’re on board. Quite a selection there – I’m really looking forward to your thoughts on them. :)

      Reply
  4. Jonathan

    I haven’t read anything by Rhys, not even Wide Sargasso Sea, but if I find the time then I think I’ll read Sleep It Off Lady as I’m a fan of short stories.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Great. I’ve been reading some her earlier stories, the ones from The Left Bank and Tigers are Better Looking – all good stuff. Hope you get a chance to read Sleep It Off, Lady – would love to hear your thoughts.

      Reply
  5. inthemistandrain

    I’ve just been to a workshop hosted by Juliet Barker so, tying in with my recent reread of Jane Eyre, I’m going to read The Wide Sargasso Sea.

    Reply
  6. Buried In Print

    I feel like I’ve been making my September reading list for about three months now, which definitely did not include Jean Rhys, and even though the thought of this event had some immediate appeal (I fell in love with her writing in my twenties and would love an excuse to reread some) I simply told myself “no, no, no: September’s too busy”. But you are seriously messing with my resolve to stay focussed on my list. *grins*

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ha! I can appreciate that – it’s hard to fit everything in with all these competing demands on our reading time. Please don’t let me distract you from your own reading plans, but you would be most welcome to join should the mood take you.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, that’s encouraging to hear! She is a unique writer; I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone else quite like her. Looking forward to seeing what you think of her work – sounds like you’re good to go with those choices.

      Reply
  7. Lady Fancifull

    Like another commenter I went through a Rhys phase. I have 4 well battered paperbacks – Tigers, Smile please, Good morning midnight, and Wide Sargasso Sea. These are all from the time when I used to sign my books and date when and where I was reading them, if this happened when travelling. The four date between 78 and 82. I am most drawn to the one I read first of all, Wide Sargasso Sea, so this shall be mine! Not entirely coincidentally I’ve been reading a fictionalized biography of the Brontes (tablet can’t do the umlaut!) so Sargasso is looming as even more alluring. Who knows where this might lead…..

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      How lovely to have a selection of those vintage paperbacks! I’ve been trying to buy them whenever they turn up in one of the charity shops I frequent, but I’m still missing one or two.

      Wide Sargasso Sea is proving to be a very popular choice, and a good one for you in light of your recent foray into Bronte country. Can’t wait to see what you think of it!

      Reply
  8. Emma

    Lovely week ahead and wonderful planning!
    I have read Wide Sargasso Sea, so I’ll pay attention to this one in particular.
    I’d love to participate but September is really not a good time for me and I’ve got a big backlog of billets to write…
    I’ll follow the event from the sidelines, unfortunately.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Emma. I’m looking forward to it. The members of my book group are reading After Leaving Mr Mackenzie this month (one of two books we’ll be discussing in early September), so I’m a little nervous about their potential responses to it! We’ll see…

      No worries at all about not being able to take part. I know September is a busy month for you with various back-to-school activities and suchlike. I’m interested in WSS too, as it’s one I’m planning to keep for the future. My main focus will be the stories, plus another re-read of Mr Mackenzie for book group. Her shorts are interesting, little vignettes of Paris and a few early pieces from her childhood in the Caribbean. They build quite a picture when viewed together.

      Reply
  9. Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel

    I hope the read along was a success. i had plans of joining, but a family emergency led to me being out of station for quite a long time. I got back just this week and an slowly settling back in. I have plans of reading Wide Sargasso Sea sometime this year

    Reply
  10. Nadia

    Wow! The Jean Rhys Reading Week plans sounds amazing :) I recently read Quartet, so I think I’m going to read some of her short stories and Voyage in the Dark. I can’t wait!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Great! Voyage in the Dark pretty much blew me away when I read it earlier this year, so I hope you enjoy it too. I doubt she ever wrote a bad piece in her life. The stories are excellent, very piercing.

      Reply
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