‘Trio’ by Jean Rhys

This is a piece of what we would now call ‘flash fiction’ that sits alongside Rhys’s more substantial stories, including the masterful ‘Let Them Call it Jazz’ with which it shares some characteristics. The narrator is an outsider looking in (the definitive figure in Rhys’s work), in this case through the window of a café in which a group of three people – a man, a woman and a teenage girl – are enjoying themselves. Rhys was proud of her ability to prune her stories to the bare essentials and here she provides more questions than answers. We don’t know if the narrator is black or white, whether she (I’m assuming) has anything in common with the people in the café or (more likely) desires to be like them. Does “I remember the Antilles” express a longing to return to the Caribbean or a sadness that she knows she never will? The uncertainly extends to the young girl in the story, who may or may not be the daughter of the older man being so affectionate towards her.

First published in Left Bank, Jonathan Cape/Harper & Brothers, 1927

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