Non-Fiction:

I Used to Live Here Once

I Used to Live Here Once

An intimate, revealing and profoundly moving biography of the extraordinary writer Jean Rhys, acclaimed author of Wide Sargasso Sea.

After a huge early success, Jean Rhys vanished from view for quarter of a century. She was rediscovered in the 70s becoming world famous in her eighties and taken to the heart of ‘cool’ London with drugs, sex and rock and roll going on all around her. She died in 1979 but has again become a cult figure as the strongly themed subjects of her novels speak to our times and quotes from her books are regularly posted on twitter.

An obsessive and troubled genius, Jean Rhys is one of the most compelling and unnerving writers of the twentieth century. Memories of a conflicted Caribbean childhood haunt the four fictions that Rhys wrote during her extraordinary years as an exile in 1920s Paris and later in England. Rhys’s experiences of heartbreak, poverty, notoriety, breakdowns and even imprisonment all became grist for her writing, forming an iconic ‘Rhys woman’ whose personality – vulnerable, witty, watchful and angry – was often mistaken, and still is, for a self-portrait.

Many details of Rhys’s life emerge from her memoir, Smile Please and the stories she wrote throughout her long and challenging career. But it’s a shock to discover that no biographer – until now – has researched the crucial seventeen years that Rhys spent living on the remote Caribbean island of Dominica; the island which haunted Rhys’s mind and her work for the rest of her life.

What people are saying about the book

I Used to Live Here OnceLuminous and penetrating, Seymour’s biography reveals a proud and fiercely independent artist, one who experienced tragedy and extreme poverty, alcohol and drug dependency, romantic and sexual turmoil – and yet was never a victim. I Used to Live Here Once enables one of our most excitingly intuitive biographers to uncover the hidden truth about a fascinatingly elusive woman. The figure who emerges for Seymour is powerful, cultured, self-mocking, self-absorbed, unpredictable and often darkly funny. Persuasive, surprising and compassionate, this unforgettable biography brings Jean Rhys to life as never before.

Buy I Used to Live Here Once HERE.

‘Brilliantly written, compulsively readable and insightful, Miranda Seymour’s biography does full justice to a remarkable and complex life’
Pat Barker, author of The Silence of the Girls

‘A very impressive piece of work. A long and tangled life most authoritatively pieced together. I was completely absorbed’
Michael Frayn, author of Noises Off

‘As always, I admire the empathic intelligence of Miranda Seymour’s approach to challenging or misunderstood subjects and in the extreme case of Jean Rhys, her warmth for a writer so difficult, wilful and self-absorbed. It’s a high-wire act to hold so witty and eloquent a balance between this writer’s recklessness and diligence. The honesty too is appealing, the acknowledgment of dark places no one can fully visit. I especially enjoyed the opening, the exotic setting of Dominica leading into the life of an expatriate who felt a stranger everywhere, and also the nuanced portrait of the aged celebrity in the pink: her cosmetics and décor both absurd and incorrigible’
Lyndall Gordon, author of Outsiders

‘Your biography vitalises Jean Rhys, VITALISES her, for which BRAVISSIMA! It will be wonderfully received, and it will be seen as definitive. And you HAVE put her in the world ... I lived in for fifty years, so I have a very personal appreciation of your book’
David Plante, author of Difficult Women

‘A masterpiece. It is so perceptive, so well-written, with an extraordinary eye for detail and an exceptional understanding both of period and location. And perhaps her greatest achievement is the sympathy and understanding she shows for her subject, who was clearly in many respects a monster of a woman. I cannot tell you how much I admire and enjoyed this book’
Selina Hastings, author of Sybille Bedford and The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham

‘Absolute gold. A beautiful and fascinating in-depth study of how a writer works, how books emerge from a life, from messy emotions, a Caribbean island and a uniquely sensitive imagination’
Ruth Padel, author of Daughters of The Labyrinth

‘Miranda Seymour’s illuminating and brilliant book shows how Jean’s life – and especially the island of Dominica – informed her genius. It goes a long way towards making the reader understand, forgive and even applaud her rage – more, it explains why so many of us loved Jean, and her books’
Diana Melly, author of Take a Girl Like Me

‘A vivid, detailed and immensely readable biography … Having played Jean Rhys myself but sadly never met her, Miranda Seymour has brought her brilliantly to life’
Dame Eileen Atkins

‘One of Miranda Seymour's finest biographies, this is an utterly riveting voyage into a writer's mind. You can almost feel Jean Rhys breathing in the room, and what a ferociously complicated woman she was! I was spellbound from start to finish’
Deborah Moggach, author of The Carer and The Black Dress

‘The multiple guises and conflicting personae of Jean Rhys – reckless and reclusive, captivating and appalling – demand a particularly agile biographer. Miranda Seymour is ideally suited to the task. An empathetic but unsparing critic, a tenacious and resourceful researcher, and a historian of literary cultures with a novelist’s sense of the evocative detail, she has produced an enthralling biography of a haunting – and maddening – modern writer’
Elaine Showalter, Professor Emerita of English, Princeton University, and author of A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing

‘Miranda Seymour has written a compelling and stylish new biography of Jean Rhys, whose life and work have often been cast in melancholic shadow. Seymour adds color and complexity to Rhys’s story, and suggests the haunting influence of her early years on the Caribbean island of Dominica. This is a fresh, empathetic portrait of an iconic and unconventional woman writer whose searing novels of trauma, race, gender, and exile were ahead of their time’
Heather Clark, author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath

Buy I Used to Live Here Once HERE.