Okay, okay. I recently said that the books I’m reading this semester all have a common theme: Sad Books. There’s nothing wrong with sad books! Who doesn’t love a good ugly cry to something like Me Before You? But these books aren’t even sad in that way: they’re just bleak, and that can get exhausting after a while! But then we read Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight, and I’ve been converted.
How on earth can you say why you love people? You might as well say you know where the lightning is going to strike.
It’s not that this isn’t bleak and sad, too, because it is. But it’s filled with some of the most beautiful writing. I was seriously underlining and writing in the margins like never before. I eventually ended up asking for recommendations on where to start with the rest of Rhys’s novels, because I’m not ready to part with the writing style and time period just yet. (She apparently wrote the Jane Eyre prequel/re-telling, Wide Sargasso Sea, but since I’ve never read Jane Eyre, I’m reluctant to start there).
Good Morning, Midnight is the semi-autobiographical novel of Sasha Jensen, a broken hearted, lost woman who goes to Paris to do some shopping, have (more than) a few drinks, and get her life back on track. What the reader gets is an introspective account of someone falling into alcoholism, and talking herself into and out of happiness with the turn of a page. Beautiful thoughts on life and happiness and memory keep the story moving, along with the alternating perspective of past and present.
It’s not that these things happen, or even that one survives them, but what makes life strange is that they are forgotten. Even the one moment that you thought was your eternity fades out and is forgotten and dies. That’s what makes life so droll – the way you forget, and every day is a new day, and there is hope for everybody, hooray…
Sasha has little to no regard for her own well being, having come to Paris after trying to drink herself to death in London. She goes out to drink with men who start following her as she walks back to her hotel, and thinks that the worst part of the situation is that she knows they won’t kill her.
Absolutely heartbreaking but beautifully written, Good Morning, Midnight is a brilliant book from an author I hadn’t previously heard of, but cannot wait to read more of. If you’re like me and haven’t heard of Jean Rhys, or haven’t read much of her work, definitely give Good Morning, Midnight a try. It gives sad books an even better name.