In this novel, our lead character is youngish woman living in Paris when her husband is arrested and jailed for fencing photographs. As she begins to restructure her life, she takes up with an older writer figure and his wife and becomes unhealthily enmeshed in their lives, to the point that when her husband is released from prison, it’s not clear what she will do or even what she should do.
Jean Rhys is an interesting figure especially in regards to this story. She is taking on aspects of her personal life and writing about them. She did have a husband go to prison on her (actually two of her husbands were jailed) and she did take up with a writer and his wife in a weird psycho-sexual threesome. The writer Ford Madox Ford became a strange enchanter figure for her and you can see the various ways in plays out in this novel.
Throughout, there are small moments late in the novel where he acts in a father-like, but definitely not fatherly way, telling her what to do, how to be, and how to act, so when her husband does get out of jail, it becomes a creepy, abusive moment as she caught between the men in her life.
As in other novels I have recently reviewed, these dangerous between spaces where a woman can neither seem to have autonomy in their relationships nor be entirely independent, allow for these abusive men to seize them and hold them captive. Unlike other works where the women are held enthralled, here she’s clear on her precariousness.
The writing in this one is very strong.
Be warned, I might be reading all five Jean Rhys novels this weekend.