Publication Date: 12/05/2022 ISBN: 9780008353254 Category:

I Used to Live Here Once

Miranda Seymour

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 12/05/2022 ISBN: 9780008353254 Category:




‘An absolute belter of a biography’ MARINA HYDE

A Times Literary Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2022

An LA Times Best Book of the Year 2022

An intimate, revealing and profoundly moving biography of Jean Rhys, acclaimed author of Wide Sargasso Sea.

An obsessive and troubled genius, Jean Rhys is one of the most compelling and unnerving writers of the twentieth century. Memories of a conflicted Caribbean childhood haunt the four fictions that Rhys wrote during her extraordinary years as an exile in 1920s Paris and later in England. Rhys’s experiences of heartbreak, poverty, notoriety, breakdowns and even imprisonment all became grist for her writing, forming an iconic ‘Rhys woman’ whose personality – vulnerable, witty, watchful and angry – was often mistaken, and still is, for a self-portrait.

Many details of Rhys’s life emerge from her memoir, Smile Please and the stories she wrote throughout her long and challenging career. But it’s a shock to discover that no biographer – until now – has researched the crucial seventeen years that Rhys spent living on the remote Caribbean island of Dominica; the island which haunted Rhys’s mind and her work for the rest of her life.

Luminous and penetrating, Seymour’s biography reveals a proud and fiercely independent artist, one who experienced tragedy and extreme poverty, alcohol and drug dependency, romantic and sexual turmoil – and yet was never a victim. I Used to Live Here Once enables one of our most excitingly intuitive biographers to uncover the hidden truth about a fascinatingly elusive woman. The figure who emerges for Seymour is powerful, cultured, self-mocking, self-absorbed, unpredictable and often darkly funny. Persuasive, surprising and compassionate, this unforgettable biography brings Jean Rhys to life as never before.

Publisher Review

'Brilliantly written, compulsively readable and insightful, Miranda Seymour's biography does full justice to a remarkable and complex life' Pat Barker, author of The Silence of the Girls 'A very impressive piece of work. A long and tangled life most authoritatively pieced together. I was completely absorbed' Michael Frayn, author of Noises Off 'It's a high-wire act to hold so witty and eloquent a balance between this writer's recklessness and diligence. The honesty too is appealing, the acknowledgement of dark places no one can fully visit' Lyndall Gordon, author of Outsiders 'Illuminating and brilliant ... It goes a long way towards making the reader understand, forgive and even applaud her rage - more, it explains why so many of us loved Jean, and her books' Diana Melly, author of Take a Girl Like Me 'Absolute gold. A beautiful and fascinating in-depth study of how a writer works, how books emerge from a life, from messy emotions, a Caribbean island and a uniquely sensitive imagination' Ruth Padel, author of Daughters of The Labyrinth 'The multiple guises and conflicting personae of Jean Rhys-reckless and reclusive, captivating and appalling-demand a particularly agile biographer. Miranda Seymour is ideally suited to the task. An empathetic but unsparing critic, a tenacious and resourceful researcher, and a historian of literary cultures with a novelist's sense of the evocative detail ... An enthralling biography of a haunting - and maddening - modern writer' Elaine Showalter, author of A Literature of Their Own 'Miranda Seymour has written a compelling and stylish new biography of Jean Rhys, whose life and work have often been cast in melancholic shadow ... This is a fresh, empathetic portrait of an iconic and unconventional woman writer whose searing novels of trauma, race, gender, and exile were ahead of their time' Heather Clark, author of Red Comet

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