What's so Great About Jean Rhys?

Jean Rhys

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A celebration of a unique writer.

Presented in collaboration with the Royal Society of Literature and BoCAS Lit Fest

This is a live online event. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in the Caribbean Windward Islands in 1894. After arriving in England aged 16, she became a chorus girl and drifted between different jobs before moving to Paris, where she started to write in the late 1920s. She is best known for her masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea, which imagines the early life of Bertha Mason from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. It was written over a long period and only published, sensationally, in 1966. Yet her writing career spanned decades and forms, from the novel Good Morning, Midnight, to short stories to Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography, published in 1979, the year that she died.

In celebration of the RSL’s 200th birthday, and the Caribbean BoCAS Lit Fest’s 10th, a panel of writers discuss the author’s impact on Caribbean literature and across the globe. Linda Grant describes her as ‘a novelist of yearning, rage and desire, whose unadorned prose hits the solar plexus.’ Trinidadian poet and arts reporter Shivanee Ramlochan ‘thinks often of Jean Rhys’ Antoinette, carrying her arsonist’s candle through the empty, cold halls of her oppressor’s mansion, ready to raze it.’ For writer and translator Lauren Elkin, Rhys’ work has been undervalued ‘for decades’, her ‘reliance on her life as inspiration for her fiction used to minimise her artistic achievement.’

Join our panellists to explore all this and more, and to find out just what is so great about Jean Rhys.

Lauren Elkin is a writer, translator and academic. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including The Guardian, theNew York Times and the London Review of Books. Her most recent book Flâneuse: Women Walk the City, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week and a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

Linda Grant FRSL is a novelist and journalist. She has written five non-fiction books and seven novels. She was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008 and the Bailey’s Prize in 2016.

Shivanee Ramlochan is a poet and book blogger. She is the Book Review Editor for Caribbean Beat Magazine, and a team member of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, as well as Paper Based Bookshop, Trinidad's sole speciality Caribbean bookseller. She writes about books for Novel Niche, with emphasis on close readings of Caribbean and queer literatures.

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Name: What's so Great About Jean Rhys?
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546

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