The first biography of the bestselling author and journalist Marguerite Jervis Daughter of an officer of the Indian Medical Corps, Florence Laura Jarvis (1886 – 1964) was born in Marguerite Burma and became one of the most successful novelists of her time .
During the course of her 60-year career, Marguerite published over 150 books, with 11 novels adapted for film, including The Pleasure Garden (1925), the directorial debut of Alfred Hitchcock. In her heyday she sold hundreds of thousands of novels, but is now largely forgotten; under numerous pseudonyms she wrote for newspapers, women’s magazines and the silent movie screen; she married one of Wales most controversial literary figures, Caradoc Evans.
She also trained as an actress and was a theatrical impresario. Known variously as Mrs Caradoc Evans, Oliver Sandys, Countess Barcynska and many other pseudonyms, who was she really?
Liz Jones has dug deep beneath the tale told in Marguerite Jervis’s own somewhat romanticised memoir to reveal what made this driven and determined woman. And what turned her from a spoilt child of the English middle classes to a workaholic who could turn her hand to any literary endeavour and who became a runaway popular success during the most turbulent years of the 20th century.
Liz Jones writes drama and creative non-fiction, reviews, short stories and journalism ranging from Take a Break to New Welsh Review. Along the way she has raised two daughters, tried to change the world, worked in a café-cum-bookshop, a housing association, in community development and lifelong learning. She is now a Teaching Fellow at Aberystwyth University.
My thoughts: this was a really interesting book. I hadn’t heard of Marguerite Jarvis or any of her aliases. Even studying English Literature for years, she never crossed my path as a writer. Which is a shame. Her life was more interesting than fiction. She reinvented herself so many times, as a writer, a “countess”, a theatre owner. Her books were made into films during the silent era, and then adapted into plays for her theatre company.
I really enjoyed learning about this interesting and colourful woman, her life, marriages and work. Her devotion to her last husband, Welsh writer Caradoc Evans, and her son Nicholas meant she never stopped writing, desperate for money to support them. It’s a shame her books seem to be hard to get hold of these days, yes I looked, as while they’re not particularly fashionable, they’re a part of literary history.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.