Monday, June 27, 2011

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys is the fourth book that seems to explore similar themes of an expatriate in Paris and how she struggles to survive.  It’s hard not to connect this novel with Voyage in the Dark, Quartet, and After Leaving Mr Mackenzie because the three women honestly feel more like the same person than they do distinct individuals.  I can see why Rhys had to contend with assumptions from readers that all four of these novels are autobiographical because the first two, she admits, are based on her personal experiences.

Sasha Jensen is desperate at the beginning of this novel.  Financially on the edge, she struggles to survive as she also tries to escape herself by transforming her appearance with a new dress or a new hair color.  No matter how far she goes, even returning to Paris in hopes of finding some solace in her life; unfortunately, she cannot escape herself.  And because of this, her despair soon manifests as depression.

The reader is more aware of Sasha’s reality than she herself seems to be.  She escapes, not only through spending money on her appearance, but also through alcohol and sedatives and her memories, which put her present depression into a context that makes her at least somewhat sympathetic.  It is not until Sasha meets a gigolo that she begins to fully reveal herself (to the reader and) to herself.

Given the overall tone of the first three novels, I was not surprised to find this one bleak and rather sad.  Rhys also returns to the first person which may explain why the narrator is more sympathetic than the previous protagonist.  I’m eager to read the next novel and consider this collection as a whole.  In the meantime, I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoyed the first three.

This is yet another entry in the BISHRBN Challenge.  I've participated in quite a few reading challenges in the past and I must say that this one is proving to be the most fun, perhaps because I feel like I'm working my way through a list of books that is endlessly growing.

2 comments:

  1. You know, I read this one a long time ago but completely forgot what it's about, only that it was rather depressing. And now your review has brought back what made me feel that way.

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  2. StephanieD, I think that the period was rife with writers who were exploring these themes of alienation, existential angst, isolation, etc. Poets (Eliot's The Wasteland), playwrights (Beckett, for example, considered one of the last modernists), etc.

    Reading Rhys reminded me of reading Anais Nin's novels. But I think I preferred Rhys over Nin or perhaps I haven't read enough of Nin's novels to fully appreciate what she was doing whereas I worked my way, one by one, through Rhys' novels (although I am still convinced they are really more novellas than novels).

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