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Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography
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Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  180 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Jean Rhys' unfinished posthumous autobiography. From the early days on Dominica to the bleak time in England, living in bedsits on gin and little else, to Paris with her first husband, this is a lasting memorial to a unique artist.
Hardcover, First U.S. edition, 151 pages
Published May 1st 1980 by Harper & Row (first published 1979)
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Kris


There is something sadly fitting about Smile Please ’s being an unfinished autobiography. According to her publisher Diana Athill in the volume's foreword, Rhys was reluctant to revisit in an autobiography painful aspects of her past that she had already treated in her novels. At the same time, Rhys was frustrated by her readers' tendency to assume all scenes and characters in her novels were drawn directly from her own life.

This explanation of Rhys’s decision to reverse herself and begin work
...more
Jenn(ifer)
Reviewing this might break my heart.

*****
It was a beautiful place - wild, untouched, above all untouched, with an alien, disturbing, secret loveliness. And it kept its secret. I'd find myself thinking, 'What I see is nothing - I want what it hides.’

That paragraph is taken from Wide Sargasso Sea, and doesn’t it beautifully express what we want from an autobiography? We want to know what is hidden. We want to know what we cannot glean from the books. Jean wrote, “I have not met other writers ofte
...more
Mariel
Apr 22, 2012 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: their manners are perfection and the opposite of mine
Recommended to Mariel by: just one little girl and me
Night has a thousand eyes,
day but one


Jean Rhys novels were autobiographical. I didn't want to go around being an asshole reading her books assuming that everything within was autobiographical. Other people went around saying it a lot. I would shake them by their shoulders and ask if they didn't feel like mind readers as I did. That's how I feel when I read Jean Rhys novels. It is a large part of why I love her as much as I do. I had a feeling the outlook, at least, was autobiographical. If you h
...more
Lauren
Imagine writing out your life four times. Pieces of your life, sewed together. Embellished for shape and threaded through with fiction. But it’s your life, there, all the little bits of it, scattered out across four novels. Your childhood in the Caribbean. That placelessness you felt. The dazzling but deceiving beauty. Looking through the jalousies at the black people’s carnival that you could watch but never be part of. Wanting to be black instead of white; knowing later that the black people w ...more
Núria
Creo que Jean Rhys ya era una escritora que me gustaba antes de leer nada de ella. De hecho, lo primero que leí de ella, 'El ancho mar de los Sargazos', no me gustó tanto como esperaba, pero ella seguía gustándome como escritora más de lo que me pudieran gustar los libros que escribiera. El problema es que esperaba mucho de 'El ancho mar de los Sargazos', porque se trataba nada más ni nada menos que la narración del primer matrimonio del señor Rochester de 'Jane Eyre' con Antoinette Cosway (la l ...more
Ambivalenza
There were pages that I just had to read and then reread and then copy into my notebook. The book got more interesting when she moved to London, Indeed, "It began to grow cold" and she reflected it with such beauty. This is a book that I will read again. I got a little stuck in the chapter where she set up a trial for herself.
Courtney
I read this book after "Wide Sargasso Sea" was assigned in one of my college lit classes. It is more like a collection of scenes, but it is a powerful work. Rhys sardonic humor is fascinating. I believe she is one of those people I would love to have lunch with...I guess if I get my wish of heaven being a big Barnes and Noble then we might.
C.S. Burrough
Jun 27, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of the author
Jean Rhys died aged 87 in 1979 before completing her autobiography, which she had started dictating only months before. Later that year the incomplete text appeared posthumously under this title.

After years of reading and rereading Jean's fiction I, like many, was doubtless it was all pieces of her own life. That was irrelevant to me, yet so relevant too. That presumption - that she needed to borrow from herself rather than create - felt disloyal, insulting to her writing ability. Yet I also fea
...more
Cooper Cooper
Jean Rhys’ autobiography is unfinished because she was still working on it when she died at age 89. It is not a continuous narrative, but rather a chronological series of vignettes or snapshots, first of her childhood (till age 16) in Dominica, and then of her subsequent life in England and Paris. Apart from Wide Sargasso Sea, all of her novels closely track her life—indeed, Voyage in the Dark is very tightly based on a diary she kept of an abortive love affair in her early days in England. Rhys ...more
Rachel
Only interesting because I love Jean Rhys
Adrian
Slim volume of autobiography by the novelist most famous for Wide Sargasso Sea. She covers her childhood in Dominica the West Indies island and her dispassionate upbringing. To her surprise the blacks hate them. At about the age of 20 she leaves Dominica with an aunt for England where she decides to become an actress. Bumps around in jobs as an extra in films (this is before WWI) and as a chorus girl. There is an oblique reference to what I assume was an abortion. Marries a somewhat disreputable ...more
John
Jean Rhys' much unfinnished biography.

In the introduction, Diana Athill mentions that one of Jean Rhys motivations for writing a memior was to distinguish fact from fiction, and to show that much of her novels were fiction. Yet it was striking how similar the accounts of her life were to her stories.

I couldn't help seeing Smile Please as an extension of her stories, rather than a novelist's habitual work of autobiographical non-fiction. Overall it's well worth reading, especially if you've enjoy
...more
h
exciting for what reveals about jean rhys, i wish it were more complete. i read this for research, and it gives me a few interesting tidbits. if you're at all interested in rhys as an author, this is well worth seeking out. it's a quick read and provides an intriguing window into her perspective.
Laurie Borchard
I really enjoyed this unconventional autobiography. Her story is told in these really great bits & pieces like a collection of short stories. It made me want to go back & rereading her novels.
Linda
living and living and living.

rhys' two adages: 1. you must earn death; 2. you will be helped
Angela
Original, quirky and beautifully written. I will now re-read Wide Sargasso Sea.
Teresa
Teresa marked it as to-read
Dec 12, 2014
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Dec 11, 2014
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Dec 01, 2014
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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...
Wide Sargasso Sea Good Morning, Midnight Voyage in the Dark After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie Quartet

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“I would never be part of anything. I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn’t really care.” 100 likes
“I like shape very much. A novel has to have shape, and life doesn't have any. ” 14 likes
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