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Miranda Seymour on Jean Rhys: I Used To Live Here Once in Bath

Monday 30th May

  • Venue The Bookshop
  • Doors open 7pm
  • Start time 7.30pm
Image of Miranda Seymour on Jean Rhys: I Used To Live Here Once

Miranda Seymour is the celebrated biographer, novelist, and author of the award-winning memoir In My Father’s House. Her many acclaimed biographies include: A Ring of Conspirators, an innovative study of Henry James; Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand Scale; Robert Graves: Life on the Edge; Mary Shelley; and In Byron’s Wake.

Now she comes to the bookshop to discuss her latest biography, an intimate, revealing and profoundly moving biography of the extraordinary writer Jean Rhys, acclaimed author of Wide Sargasso Sea.

After a huge early success, Jean Rhys vanished from view for quarter of a century. She was rediscovered in the 70s becoming world famous in her eighties and taken to the heart of ‘cool’ London with drugs, sex and rock and roll going on all around her.

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 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 therest 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.