Friday, 20 April 2012

'After leaving Mr McKenzie' - Jean Rhys

The guy next to me in the British Library yesterday was reading about Jean Rhys. She was prettier than I had imagined, but then I am quite JR-ignorant. I have not even read Wide Sargasso Sea (Penguin Modern Classics). But I did have a vague sense that she was a part of the racy inter-war literary set that I hope fans of my tuna novels will soon be more familiar with. She was. Here's a snatch from her Wikipedia page.

In 1919 Rhys married the French-Dutch journalist, spy and songwriter Willem Johan Marie (Jean) Lenglet, the first of her three husbands. She lived with him from 1920; they wandered through Europe, living mainly in London, Paris and Vienna. They had two children, a son who died young and a daughter. They divorced in 1933.

The next year she married Leslie Tilden-Smith, an editor. They moved to Devon in 1939, where she lived for many years. He died in 1945.

Two years later, in 1947 Rhys married Max Hamer, a solicitor and cousin to Tilden-Smith. He spent much of their marriage in jail.* He died in 1966.

* This was clearly not totally unique for Rhys. This was in 1924: At that time her husband was in jail for eight months for what Rhys described as currency irregularities: Rhys moved in with Ford and his longtime partner, Stella Bowen. An affair with Ford* quickly ensued.

* I do know about bit about Ford Madox Ford, and I have read The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion (Penguin Classics), and it's absolutely amazing.

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