|Jean Rhys, author of Quartet (1929)|
by Jean Rhys
Quartet is a roman a clef that Rhys wrote about her affair with novelist/writer Ford Madox Ford. Rhys had a most interesting background, the child of a "creole" family from the Caribbean island of Dominica, she was educated in England but found herself an outsider among her school mates. She drifted into the fast lane, living as a "demimonde" according to her own Wikipedia page. Demimonde is basically a mistress or otherwise "sexually liberated" woman living in a time before such a thing could be done without incurring stiff societal judgment.
This book is kind of a proto-beat, proto-bad girl type of "fiction" that would typify the style of the (mostly male) Beat writers. Her own character spends the entire book at loose ends, passively being talked into one bad idea after another, with no clear idea of where she wants to go and how she wants to get there. Of course, the whole point of reading a book like Quartet is to observe that as the pool of Authors writing fiction broadens, the types of lives depicted by those writers expands to embrace their personal experiences. Thus, in 1929 we have books like this one and Passing, which is a more chaste, less robust depiction of the same kind of existence, more or less.
Under 200 pages, Quartet is an easy reader and does a good job of conjuring 20s Bohemian Paris, albeit in a dark sort of way.