Caryl phillips review

November From novelist and playwright Caryl Phillips, an acclaimed voice on identity and race, comes another historical exploration, one that easily lands among his most timely and important work.

Caryl phillips review

I would come into the cold, dark reading room in the library from the suitably tropical heat of the plains, layer up with thick socks, leggings, and sweaters, and then go to an even darker place. The arc of his story begins with her longing for her island and ends with the last day she set eyes upon it at the age of His closeness to his subject shows in his style and in the evidence of the rigorous research he did for the novel, which is a dream come true for anyone who has been to Caryl phillips review archives; seeing those unsettling, scrawled sentiments of hers in narrative form is thrilling.

For those readers who have not made the trip to Tulsa, Phillips offers a compelling and troubling portrait of a writer whose work explores the same kind of precarity and vulnerability that Philips depicts in Rhys herself. One of his most highly acclaimed works, Crossing the River, features three distinct narrators, and the narrators of his prize-winning A Distant Shore include a white suburban English woman and an African refugee.

The brushstrokes of this portrait are affective, and the palette is of muted feelings. There is a pervasive theme of failure — failure to make it as a showgirl, failure to maintain romantic ties, failure as a mother, failure above all to fit in — that swathes the narrative in melancholy.

There is also a chill and detachment to the chapters set in Europe, even when she goes through experiences that seem like they would cause emotional upheaval, such as losing her infant son and, later, giving birth to Caryl phillips review daughter.

Caryl phillips review

It is like watching our heroine move through a thick fog that might as well stand in for England in particular. All of the loss that the real Rhys experienced compelled her to search in life and in letters for a hollowed out state of numbness.

If only she could have bottled indifference, she might not have been the heavy drinker that she is in most accounts, including that of Phillips. This affective cocktail of despair, loss, and bad faith makes for an absorbing reading experience, counterintuitively; Phillips evokes a certain pathos for a woman just trying to get through life day by day and year by year.

That is how your face must be when you talk with people, you hear? Make your eyes dead like so. What does it mean to be from a place, to long for a place, where you do not fully belong? What does it mean to be exiled from that place? When she is in England, Gwen thinks wistfully of Dominica: I will show you the rivers and the mountains, and come evening, as the New World day convulses towards dusk, I will share with you a spectacular elevated view of the empire at sunset.

Perhaps, my husband, if I show you the West Indies, then you will finally come to understand that I am not of your world, and maybe then you will appreciate the indignity I feel at not only having to live among you people but possibly die among you, too.

She loves her homeland, which means that, by extension, she is possessed by a certain colonial nostalgia, yet she is something of a floating signifier of colonialism who fits on neither side of its binary.

Her first affair is with a tedious and narcissistic man who monopolizes the page as he does Gwen. This is why her return trip to Dominica in turns out to be a gut punch to her soul.

The family estate where she remembers being happy lies in burnt ruins, a marker of black revolt against centuries of the plantation economy from which her family profited. The locals are mistrustful and mocking.

But it is more than the withering social scene that forces her from Dominica.

Caryl phillips review

As Phillips notes, it does not feel good. By the time of the trip, Rhys had written dozens of razor-sharp short stories and three astonishing novels; she was at work on a fourth novel, which she published just a few years later.

In essence, though, she spent the next 30 years after the trip writing Wide Sargasso Sea, a novel steeped in the Caribbean. Critics have not focused on just how pivotal her return to Dominica was in her story, which is not to say that Phillips is particularly interested in her career — he is not.

Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

The fact that she is a writer at all registers only briefly in the chapter about meeting her second husband, a publisher who admires her work. Shifting smoothly between past and present tense throughout the novel, Phillips implies that imperial time is slippery and the present can shift into the past or vice versa at any moment.

Shortly before her death, Rhys was awarded the order of the C. And anyway, by then the sun had already set on the Empire.The following is from Caryl Phillips's novel, A View From the Empire at Sunset.A fictional retelling of Jean Rhys's life, the novel recounts her time in England and Paris, before returning to Dominica in A positive rating based on 14 book reviews for A View of the Empire at Sunset by Caryl Phillips.

Caryl Phillips was born in St. Kitts, grew up in Leeds, and studied English Literature at Oxford University. He began writing for the theatre and his plays include Strange Fruit (), Where.

Follow us: Facebook. Twitter. Jun 22,  · In his novel “A View of the Empire at Sunset,” Caryl Phillips uses the difficult, lonely life of Jean Rhys to explore themes of alienation and exile. The beauty of the language and the sweep of the narrative make this novel a moving and powerful experience for the reader.

Caryl Phillips explores the abandonment and misery of slavery without indicting any of the participants above the rest.

NPR Choice page