Up close and personal with Jean Rhys, Germaine Greer, and Sonia Orwell

2017/9/20 0:03:30

Three portraits of three unforgettable women

 

[See Editor’s Note below]

 


Difficult Women, A Memoir of Three

 

In the late 1970s, David Plante, a young American writer living in London, courted some very interesting company. He wrote about a few of his companions in Difficult Women, which, since its first publication in 1983, has divided audiences. Some find Plante's portraits of Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell, and Germaine Greer simply fascinating and brilliantly observed. Others question the character and motivations of the keenly and often cruelly observant portraitist himself. The work, however, is above all a valuable documentation of the literary elite of the time, and an entertaining one at that. Plante is there through everything—the drinking, the unguarded confessions, the worries about aging and one's legacy—and he brings the reader with him for the ride.

 

"Like its three subjects, Difficult Women is consistently interesting. It’s as if Mr. Plante were staring out over a wild and rugged topography of femaleness and wondering how one lives in such a land. It’s a good question and a good book."

—Anatole Broyard, The New York Times

 

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Editor’s Note: When I was much younger I lived for several years in the Caribbean, mainly Mayaguana Island in the Bahamas, Antigua and for the longest period in the most beautiful of all, Dominica. [Commonwealth of Dominica, a former UK colony not to be confused with the Dominican Republic]. On the way to my office in Dominica, every day I would walk past the small frame building that had been the home of one of the writers noted above, Jean Rhys, during her formative years. It had a large plaque noting her long residence there and had been preserved – at least until today. As I read the review above I found it quite ironic that on the very day a book about Jean Rhys was featured in NYRB, it seems almost certain that small frame house will have been destroyed by the most powerful hurricane that has hit Dominica in recorded history Jim Davis 

 

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