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After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,238 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Julia Martin is at the end of her rope in Paris. Once beautiful, she was taken care of by men. Now after leaving her last lover, she is running out of luck and chances. A visit to London to see her ailing mother and distrustful sister bring her stark life into full focus. A masterful and terrifying tale from one of the truest voices in twentieth-century fiction.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 17th 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1930)
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Aug 26, 2015 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It was the darkness that got you. It was heavy darkness, greasy and compelling. It made walls round you, and shut you in so that you felt you could not breathe. You wanted to beat at the darkness and shriek to be let out. And after a while you got used to it. Of course. And then you stopped believing that there was anything else anywhere.".

My third Rhys and I feel that her female protagonists aren't the most likeable characters but they are human so quite relatable.At least it's very easy to re
Sep 10, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: your shadow self
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by:

There she goes a little heartache; there she goes a little pain. Make no mistake, she sheds her skin like a snake, gonna walk the plank again...

I cannot stop reading Jean Rhys. This might not be such a wise decision as Ms. Rhys tends to wallow in her darkness a bit more than most, but what can I say? She speaks my language.

Shhhhhhhh.... Listen closely. Jean has something she'd like to say.

That's what this book feels like: it feels like Jean and I are sitting in some dark French cafe and she's
Feb 27, 2012 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Pooh Bear's tummy
Recommended to Mariel by: Rabbit's stingy wallet
I had suspicions of prison visitations when reading Voyage in the Dark that turned out to be all too throw away the key true in Quartet. Quartet had me thinking about hiding out in cinemas to avoid facing the soul equivalent of the bill collector (and long past due). I am afraid of what my dark inkling stains for After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie coming true in the fourth book of my "The Complete Novels" Jean Rhys book (Good Morning, Midnight is next).

The back of my book hints that these were autobio
Paul Bryant
Apr 16, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
You might have expected the song I Enjoy Being a Girl to have been written by a couple of men (Rogers & Hammerstein) because it has lyrics like

When I have a brand new hairdo
With my eyelashes all in curls
I float as the clouds on air do
I enjoy being a girl

But it distressed me a little bit to find out that I’m a Woman, which is hardly feminist but nevertheless thrillingly celebratory:

I can rub & scrub this old house til it's shinin like a dime
Feed the baby, grease the car, & powder my
Nate D
There's a quote on the back, something like "As stark and as ominous as a skeleton", and there it is. The skeleton, belonging to everyone, utterly ordinary yet a source of dread. The utter bleakness of this first Quartet of Rhys novels in the 20s and 30s, is that they all seem all too clear and habitual and believable. They're difficult to dispute. The best ray of hope (not a refutation, but at least a counter-example), however, is that however autobiographically Rhys may have been writing here, ...more
Apr 12, 2016 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-novellas
Julia had abandoned herself. She was kneeling and sobbing and wishing she had brought another handkerchief. She was crying now because she remembered that her life had been a long succession of humiliations and mistakes and pains and ridiculous efforts. Everybody's life was like that. At the same time, in a miraculous manner, some essence of her was shooting upwards like a flame. She was great. She was a defiant flame shooting upwards not to plead but to threaten. Then the flame sank down again, ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 05, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
After leaving Mr Mackenzie Julia Martin thought about a shotgun to the head but she didn't have a shotgun or something like cyanide but she was friends with no pharmacist or to become a graceful manic flysplat underground train leaper but the very idea made her tired or hanging but what about the poor hotel maids, not their fault after all and wouldn't they be cursing or the simple tumble from the 12th floor, that might do but she didn't have much of a head for heights or stick her finger in the ...more
C.S. Burrough
Aug 17, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it it was amazing
This is the delectable Jean Rhys at her very best. She has our central character deliciously sussed out. We know her shortcomings and want to help her out - it's a tough life out there for Julia Martin. Hell, it's a goddam jungle.

Some of this underdog protagonist's wry observations are as bluntly incisive as Rhys's narrative observation of her:

'Of course she had some pathetic illusions about herself or she would not be able to go on living.'

'It's so easy to make a person who hasn't got anything
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 Michael Armijo rated it it was amazing
Depressing 'here n' there'...but a Profound Literary Accomplishment,

I completed this book on a flight from LA to NY on 10/11/2000. This was my first reading experience by Jean Rhys.

I learned that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis included Jean Rhys on her roster of favorite authors. That's why I bought the book. I was curious to learn what 'tickled her fancy'. At first...the book was 3 stars...but after a day or two had passed I realized that the book had quite an impact on me. I had just finished an
Dec 03, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
Having read this novel in one day, I had to say that it was actually quite good. I gained a deeper appreciation for it during the class I was taking, but of all the modernist expatriate women fiction we had to read, I really enjoyed this best. The novel uses dark language and really describes the relationships that Julia has in a very emotionally negative way. Rhys does an amazing job at creating a terrible world of Europe. It's not too long and it's a read that makes you feel uneasy inside.

Jul 20, 2007 Kyla rated it really liked it
A book I've had on my bookshelves for some time but never got around to reading, dusted off while packing for a move. Perhaps not the ideal book or frame of mind to put yourself into as you move across the country and question your life and direction and the bland little corporate apartment you are forced to live in at first - nope, not ideal for that. A sad, desperate book. But I love her sensibility, a down at the heels Edith Wharton. The desperation women felt on having to look after themselv ...more
Mar 07, 2009 Caitlin rated it really liked it
i am in the midst of reading all of rhys' work. this is a dangerous thing to do and i may have to take a break from it. rhys indelibly captures something very real about being a woman, having needs, disappointment, but she was also a miserable, lost creature, and the only hope in her books is the very existence of them. that she wrote so exquisitely and still had such a low opinion of humanity seems to be a testament to something muscular and breathing under the cringing and sneering she sees th ...more
May 19, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It is a terrible book about the final floundering to destruction of a friendless and worthless but pitiful woman. It is terrible, but it is superb." — Rebecca West

"What a relatable protagonist!" — me
I read the Penguin Modern classic. The introduction by Lorna Stage had way too many spoilers, so I skipped it until I finished the book, and then went back to it.

The back cover states, "a breakthrough book... a novel poised between hope and despair."

Personally I felt the story leans quite heavily to the side of despair. The main character Julia Martin, is really rather pathetic, with very few redeeming qualities. Rather than making something of herself, she is relying on others to do something
Aug 02, 2014 Proustitute rated it really liked it
Quietly devastating.
Lee Foust
Sep 11, 2015 Lee Foust rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Another devastating novel by jean Rhys. (I'm reading/re-reading them in order of composition and this is her third.) After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie one is a bit of a departure from her first two novels, Voyage in the Dark and Quartet insomuch as the text moves much more freely through the interior thoughts and impressions of the various characters and how they perceive and interpret each other. The narrative therefore creates less the tale of an alienated woman's struggle against a hostile and abus ...more
Feb 27, 2011 Ali rated it really liked it
The only other Jean Rhys novel I have read is The Wide Sargasso Sea - which I loved and in fact read twice. This is a beautifully written little novel, which at the time it was written must have been a bit shocking.
Julia Martin is a woman who has lived off the money of various lovers. Her most recent Mr Mackenzie has been paying her through his lawyer to live in a run down hotel in Paris since she left him. Now with no money left - and no longer as young as she was Julia faces an uncertain futur
Myrtle Haun
Nov 05, 2010 Myrtle Haun rated it it was amazing
Jean Rhys is an absolute master of the feminine psychological interior - her work is very stream of consciousness yet succinct, and her characters complex yet very easy to relate to. I love the relationships her characters tend to have with men - naive but jaded, broken from past hurts, reckless, and full of misdirected, desperate need to fulfill something nebulous and undefined. Much like the confusion of real life after pain. I wish I could have met Jean Rhys in life. I suspect she was a very ...more
Jul 13, 2014 NancyHelen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
This was a fascinating novel from the author of Wide Sargasso Sea. What was so interesting was how the point of view kept switching between characters, and then again between third person and second person. It happened seamlessly. Throughout you didn't know who you felt sympathy for, if anyone. It was a story of hopelessness which was surrounded by a post-Great War atmosphere of loneliness and the difference between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.
Mar 09, 2016 Mirte rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It needs to be said that Rhys is one of the most difficult novelists I have ever read. Her characters are not sympathetic, they are not beautiful, their lives are not interesting or fascinating. But this is exactly the point and the strength of her narratives: they are unmistakably, painfully real.

If I had to use one word to describe this novel, it would be 'bleak'. Julia seems only a shell of a person, someone who is barely alive, barely functioning after having been left - yes, not the other w
Sep 06, 2009 Taylor rated it really liked it
A book about the true horrors of being a woman with no prospects in the early twentieth century. I read it in a day and felt horribly depressed afterwards, but it's impossible to put down. Julia's desperation is sickening, and you find yourself almost wishing she would give up, but the fact that she doesn't is all the more terrifying. Possibly my favorite Rhys.
Apr 20, 2013 Eve rated it really liked it
I am just recovering from the emotional hangover induced by this dark, short, well-shaped story. Rhys excels in setting a mood, I felt dragged into the downward spiral of the central character, a good time girl who is past her prime. It's not pretty, As Rhys writes, "It's so easy to "make a person who hasn't got anything seem wrong"
This was my first exposure to Jean Rhys writing. She also wrote Wide Sargasso Sea. So having said this, I had no inkling what to expect when I began the book, was it a romance maybe? What spectrum would it fall into? I think I can safely say it wasn't a Romance. It's a short, concise story dealing with a two-week (or so) period in the life of Julia. There is a bit of a back story; she has been in Paris for a number of years, having left England and her husband after the death of their child. She ...more
Jun 08, 2010 Deja rated it it was amazing
Visit my review of this book and a discussion on reading sad books at:


Re-reading this so that I can host a reading group on it for my friend's blog: The plan is to be up by the end of the month, so why not join me? I plan on talking about the merits/pitfalls of being obsessed with sad books. (or something like that--we'll see.)


Quick, gorgeously written, heartbreaking. It's the kind of book that has you constantly thi
Apr 06, 2014 Ian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was M John Harrison who recommended Jean Rhys on Twitter – some time last year, I seem to recall – during a conversation about women writers. Shortly afterwards, I stumbled across this book in a charity shop, and decided to give it a go. Julia has left her husband after the death of their baby, and is now living hand-to-mouth in a Parisian fleapit hotel. Desperate for money, she returns to London, hoping to sponge off relatives and/or past lovers. There’s a distant tone to this short novel, ...more
Feb 16, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suppose I read this as a companion piece to Good Morning, Midnight (written 8 years later) both feature desperate, depressed women, failed marriages, lost children, failed finances, they spiral from one sad affair to another. But the real skill and joy that I find is in Rhys's characters: they are so vitally alive, for they feel all emotions deeply, even indifference and despair. They push onwards, always moving. Solitary walks allow Julia Martin, the central woman of "After Leaving Mr Mackenz ...more
Jan 06, 2015 Sophie rated it it was ok
Jean Rhys is one of my absolute favourite writers, her writing is melancholic and her books often leave me heartbroken. Yet After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie didn't make me feel anything but fed up; all the characters are irritating, frustrating, or lifeless. The protagonist - Julia - was infuriating, I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her. After their marriage has failed, Mr. Mackenzie cuts off Julia's allowance and because Julia is so used to men paying for everything, she loses the p ...more
Oct 09, 2015 Lukerik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written. There are sentences like this from chapter 9:

“Julia watched the shadows as they passed – the angular shadows of houses and the dark, slender shadows of the leafless branches, like an uneven row of dancers in the position 'Arabesque'.”

There are also loads of antitheses. The novel's packed with them, but in the architecture rather than the sentence structure.

Julia's a superbly drawn character. She's a weird, selfish parasite. So well drawn that I found the novel frustrating an
Pete daPixie
Apr 23, 2014 Pete daPixie rated it really liked it
I have read through a trilogy of short Rhys novels, namely, 'Good Morning Midnight' 1939; 'Voyage in the Dark' 1934; and now 'After Leaving Mr.Mackenzie' 1931; All three have been rated with four stars.
Jean Rhys' vulnerable heroine, Julia, 'After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie' drifts through self-doubt and alcohol fuelled scenes in the Cafe's and drab hotel rooms of Paris and London. Dark, and stark observational writing, the author displays a cold and lonely heart, struggling to begin anew, a beginning
Mar 07, 2014 Cynthia rated it really liked it
The misanthropic Jean Rhys utilizes After Leaving Mr Mackenzie as an effort to describe the extraordinary loss we all suffer at the disappearance of our youth. Julia, Rhys' protagonist, is a woman at the end of her youth at the novel's beginning who is trying to survive the only way she knows how, by being a kept woman. Yet, she has made the fatal mistake of falling in love with a man she knew would not stay once he had become bored. Julia constantly reiterates the "dog eat dog" world she has co ...more
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500 Great Books B...: After Leaving Mr. McKenzie - Jean Rhys 1 11 Jul 12, 2014 08:55PM  
  • Julia and the Bazooka and Other Stories
  • The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys
  • The Chosen Place, The Timeless People
  • Loitering With Intent
  • Pilgrimage, Volume 1: Pointed Roofs, Backwater, Honeycomb
  • My Face for the World to See
  • My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
  • What We Talk about When We Talk about the Tube: The District Line
  • Daddy's
  • Starlight
  • Mrs Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel
  • The Shutter of Snow
  • A Glass of Blessings
  • Human Voices
  • The Skin Chairs
  • The Sad Passions
  • Going Home
  • Passing On
Jean Rhys originally Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, was a Caribbean novelist who wrote in the mid 20th century. Her first four novels were published during the 1920s and 1930s, but it was not until the publication of Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 that she emerged as a significant literary figure. A "prequel" to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea won a prestigious WH Smith Literary Award in ...more
More about Jean Rhys...

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“It's so easy to make a person who hasn't got anything seem wrong.” 25 likes
“Of course she had some pathetic illusions about herself or she would not be able to go on living.” 25 likes
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