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Demolition Man

Books | November issue

Difficult Women by David Plante

David Plante’s demolition job on Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell and Germaine Greer first appeared in 1983. Tasteless, treacherous and horribly brilliant, Difficult Women has now been awarded the ultimate prize by being reissued as a New York Review Classic, so we need no longer be ashamed of admiring it. Plante is a (minor) novelist of French-Canadian descent with a yearning for fame and a genius for treachery. Not one for betraying his daemon, Plante, a diabolical Boswell, sniffs around literary London, accumulating smart invitations in order to murder his host. The first part of Difficult Women describes lunch with Jean Rhys, in her eighties and living in a hotel in South Kensington. Sozzled and lachrymose, Rhys is lost in memories of Dominica and dead babies, while Plante’s role is to replenish her glass. Occasionally, the spotlight falls on him: ‘Do you hate women?’ asks Rhys, who has just described ‘all...

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