Jean Rhys is best known for her amazing novel Wide Sargasso Sea. I can't even give a little hint at the theme of this novel because that will destroy much of the reading pleasure. (If you decide to read it, don't look at the back cover or any reviews, they will kill it for you. Just go to the text straightaway.)
Unfortunately, many people don't pay as much attention to other novels by this great wriiter. After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1930) is very different from but in no way inferior to Wide Sargasso Sea.
The best thing about the novel is the economy of words and emotions in the description of the main character's experiences. Julia Martin's tragedy is very mundane and ordinary. Her story is narrated in simple phrases, stripped of any kind of flourish. This type of narrative voice underscores just how bereft Julia's existence is and just how naked she feels in her confrontation with the world.
Julia Martin only knows one way to survive in a hostile universe. She enters into relationships with men who maintain her. When these men, such as Mr. Mackenzie, for example, get tired of her and dump her, Julia has no way of leaving the relationship with at least a shred of self-respect. Of course, what Julia does is prostitution. She wants, however, to preserve a semblance of respectability by pretending that there is some sort of an emotional connection between her and the men who pay her for sex. Soon, Julia starts to disintegrate, torn between the need to secure at least a modest sum of money to survive and the desire to maintain some last shred of dignity.
Even though the events in the novel take place between the two Great Wars, Julia's experiences still ring true today. This is what makes this novel so incredibly sad. Decades of women's liberation movement lie between us and Julia. But there are still so many Julias around.