Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

PicMonkey CollageOkay, 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.

6 comments

  1. I absolutely love Jean Rhys, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to study all of her novels in a special author module during my degree. ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ was one of my favourites. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    1. That sounds like a great class; I would love to study them all together! I picked up Quartet and Voyage in the Dark the other day and can’t wait to read them.

  2. I have never read anything yet by Jean Rhys, although I have heard lots of good things about her. It sounds like this would be a good book to start with. I love that first quote you included!

  3. I first came across Rhys by way of the Jane Eyre prequel Wide Saragasso Sea. While I enjoyed it, her other books didn’t seem “appealing” to me at the time: the lonely, depressed and unreliable protagonist; and so I never revisited her work. Flash forward a decade and I find myself in recovery. I began to look for any literary books around the topic and process and soon stumbled back on Rhys through Good morning, Midnight. She beautifully captures Sasha’s devastating state of ‘rock-bottom.’ It was just the book I needed to keep me on course..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s