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Voyage in the Dark
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Group Reads Archive > Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys (2013 Reading Challenge)

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message 1: by Ally (new) - added it

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss:

Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys


Susan | 774 comments Had never read Jean Rhys before, so was intrigued by this. Have to be honest and say I didn't really enjoy it - it was dark, depressing and I found Anna quite self pitying. I understand from the introduction that Jean Rhys suffered from depression and I can believe it from reading this! It was perfectly formed, beautifully written, but ultimately I didn't really enjoy it, although I appreciated how well it was constructed.


message 3: by Ally (new) - added it

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
The only book I've read by Jean Rhys is Wide Sargasso Sea...I read it because it's the pre-story of the mad woman in the attic from Jane Eyre. It had a really dark atmosphere too so perhaps that is Rhys' style.


Susan | 774 comments The introduction did warn me of the author's style. It was very well written and I am glad I tried something by her.


Nigeyb I really enjoyed this book. I posted a review on Good Reads which I can paste here if anyone's interested. Would do it anyway but typing this on my phone which is more limiting (though do love the Goodreads app).


Nigeyb Nigeyb wrote: "I really enjoyed this book. I posted a review on Good Reads which I can paste here if anyone's interested. Would do it anyway but typing this on my phone which is more limiting (though do love the ..."

Here you go:

The first book I have read by Jean Rhys - and not the last. Clearly biographical and very well written too. The protagonist - Anna - arrives in England from the West Indies and has to adapt to a new country, a new culture, and a society that is changing fast. Anna is ill equipped to deal with her life as a chorus girl traveling the country, and the characters she encounters. Most of whom want something from her and in the process leave her more damaged. The writing is wonderful and I was engrossed from the first few pages. I'm looking forward to reading more books by Jean Rhys. 4/5


message 7: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val I agree that it is well written, but I lost patience with Anna faster than her assorted boyfriends and landladies.
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


Susan | 774 comments Val, totally agree. Anna is apparently the authors least self pitying character, so I dread to think what the rest of them are like. I didn't like her either - she was either in bed, tired or complaining. I am not tempted to read more by this author, I have to admit.


message 9: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 23, 2013 07:50AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb An interesting selection of responses. Interesting that most of you found Anna depressed/depressing/self pitying. I didn't see her in this way - she was very passive and accepting but I don't recall her being self pitying (though it was about six months ago that I finished the book).

I thought the sections about Anna's life in the Caribbean were fantastic and helped me to understand just how difficult it would be for someone like Anna to make the transition to life in England. London is depicted as boring, monotonous, and stifling in contrast to Dominica which is described as vibrant, lively, warm and sensual.

I also saw her mistreatment at the hands of most of the men she encounters as perhaps being a metaphor for the way Britain treated her colonies. What do you think?

Anyway, all of which is my way of suggesting that we shouldn't take the Anna character too literally, and in any event there are plenty of mitigating factors to explain her passivity.


Susan | 774 comments I agree that there could be a metaphor there, although apparently the character of Anna was very like the author herself, who suffered from depression. I really didn't understand why Anna was so eager to give up her job and be a kept woman, when it was made clear to her that there had been other women before her - and so, presumably, after her. I know she was young, but I found her so apathetic it was, at times, very odd. Even other characters mentioned being irritated by her. Also, was she really mistreated so badly by the men she encountered?


message 11: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 24, 2013 01:39PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb Susan wrote: "Also, was she really mistreated so badly by the men she encountered? "

I suppose the mistreatment wasn't so bad and of course her naivety and inexperience made her an easy victim. Quite literally a voyage in the dark for poor Anna. The men use her until they tire of her, expediting her journey from innocence to harsh experience.

Susan wrote: "apparently the character of Anna was very like the author herself "

So I believe. Like Anna, Jean Rhys was born in Dominica and came to England as a 16 year old where she drifted between jobs before moving to Paris where she started to write.

I've heard it compared with The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann which is well regarded too. Anyone know it?


message 12: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val I think that all the men have to go on is what she says, how she behaves and the company she keeps, so based on that they wouldn't feel that they were doing anything wrong or using her in any way she didn't want to be used. Walter in particular is honest about what he wants from the relationship and actually prepared to do a lot more for her than any of the more experienced girls in her situation would have expected from their gentlemen. She drifts into a way of life rather than consciously choosing it. She doesn't tell Walter or anyone how she feels about things and rejects some of the help she is offered.
I am trying to hedge around the details so as not to include spoilers, but I hope that will make sense to those who have finished reading it.
Nowadays we might recognise that she is probably suffering from depression, but few people would then and even fewer have any idea what to do about it.


Nigeyb Val wrote: "Nowadays we might recognise that she is probably suffering from depression, but few people would then and even fewer have any idea what to do about it. "

Agreed. The only thing I'd add is that she appears to be much happier when she's in Dominica that after she relocates to the UK. That's the heart of the book for me. The contrast between the two countries - the feeling of alienation and trying to come to terms with a new, very different place.

This article is well worth a read and made me realise that "Voyage in the Dark" is far more biographical than I had previously realised. It's worth reading for its own sake too. She certainly appears to have had a lot of issues to contend with.


message 14: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val Very interesting article Nigey. She makes some changes to her own story and I am wondering if they are significant. She gives herself an English stepmother and drunkard uncle and has the home in Dominica sold, so that she does not have the option of returning.
The contrast between the warmth, colour and liveliness of Dominica makes a powerful contrast with cold, grey England. It is an important part of the book. She does not want to return to her real life in Dominica however, what she wants is to be black (rather than part of the white elite to which she belongs) or sometimes to return to her childhood. Her homesickness is also part of her reluctance or inability to take responsibility for her life. At least, that is how I read it.


Nigeyb Val wrote: "Her homesickness is also part of her reluctance or inability to take responsibility for her life. At least, that is how I read it. "

Yes, it was probably a factor. I suspect her other issues would have impacted on her life no matter where she had lived - they appear so profound.


Nigeyb Awinash wrote: "Hey guys, could someone please help me with the main themes of this book? I really need it for a presentation. In advance my thanks to you. :)"

There's plenty of material in this thread. What have you identified as the main themes Awinash? Post your initial ideas and I'm sure you'll get some thoughts and feedback.


message 17: by Amy (last edited Sep 30, 2013 09:18AM) (new)

Amy | 38 comments Just finished this (am reading all her novels and am loving her writing style). It reminded me of Hamilton's "Slaves of Solitude" in the portrayal of the boarding houses and always being watched by the landladies in case you ended up being a "tart" and have to be evicted. How horrible! Certainly making me re-think how interesting it would have been to live in the era of bright young things and live in these horrible houses. I think I'll keep my modern, private home.


Nigeyb Amy wrote: "It reminded me of Hamilton's "Slaves of Solitude" in the portrayal of the boarding houses and always being watched by the landladies in case you ended up being a "tart" and have to be evicted."

Yes indeed, I can't imagine anything more hellish.


message 19: by Charles (new)

Charles I'm not inclined to take at face value judgments of Rhys's women as passive or depressed. Well, maybe they are, but Rhys's continuing interest is in their exploitation and abandonment by the men they encounter, and the desolation of a woman desperate for intimacy and human warmth (and who doesn't want that) who finds herself used and discarded. Their plight is immeasurable sad. These are not Cosmo women. They are ordinary, gray, lonely.


Joanne (seagreenreader) Just started this book and can't say I'm enjoying it so far. I haven't come to it with high hopes, as I didn't enjoy Wide Sargasso Sea. It's leaving me feeling quite down, there's such an air of hopelessness about Anna's life.


message 21: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindalappin) | 5 comments It is true that she paints a grim picture of women's exploitation, but the voice and prose are so exquisite, you become quickly absorbed.


message 22: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments I've never read her work, but will add her to the list. I'm sure someone with knowledge would be able to answer. Fascinating author.


message 23: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments Sorry thought you were asking a question. : ))


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