In her will, Jean Rhys expressed a wish that no biography of her should be written unless authorized during her lifetime. Following her death, her literary executor was approached frequently with requests for permission to write "an official life". Finally he decided that, by compiling a volume of letters, authentic biographical information would be provided. But as the collection grew, the biographical aspect took on a secondary importance as the self-portrait began to reveal the turbulent process of literary creation. The final result is a portrait spanning the years 1931 (taking up the story roughly where it was left in "Smile Please") to 1966, when the long struggle to finish "Wide Sargasso Sea" was over.
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These volumes provide as close to a self-portrait of the author as readers are likely to get. Rhys died in 1979, leaving behind only a handful of the planned sketches for her autobiography, Smile Please, which LJ's reviewer found "fascinating but frustratingly incomplete" (LJ 4/15/80). The Letters volume (LJ 6/1/84) helps fill in some of the blanks.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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