Voyage In The Dark
No one writes outsiders like Jean Rhys. Her stories centre on the other woman, the peripheral character – the frustratingly passive protagonist. Between 1928 and 1939, she published a quartet of short novels from the vantage point of four such characters, all of whom regularly wander in and out of urban cinemas. For Rhys, cinema was a useful staging ground for depicting the experience of being inside/outside, performing belonging while feeling utterly alienated in the unsympathetic cityscapes her novels depict. In the dream-like Voyage in the Dark, for example, Rhys takes us into the grimy fleapits of pre-war London. Seated in a seedy Camden theatre, immigrant chorus girl Anna Morgan and her friend watch Three-Fingered Kate, a popular real-life British crime serial from the early 1910s. As Anna’s companion berates the actor playing Kate for being a ‘foreigner’ each dismissive remark reinforces Anna’s own sense of displacement, while Rhys’s ingenuous choice of serial reflects the repetitive cycles in which all her heroines find themselves: doomed to repeat their mistakes and remain outsiders. — Lisa Stead
First published 1934 by Constable. Extract from Andre Deutsch 1967 edition.