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Good Morning, Midnight: Jean Rhys (Penguin Modern Classics)

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Yet Sasha’s anxiety is more complex than embarrassment or shame at having shown herself up or been shown up in certain restaurants or cafes; it goes beyond having her nose rubbed in her past experiences. While pushing through these novels over the last couple of weeks, I frequently thought how unfortunate it was for Rhys that she didn’t have access to Alcoholics Anonymous or quality psychotherapy. The space between my eyes became a spreading bruise: first a little yellow, then dark lime, then bright blue, and finally deepest black. There is style too, which I would compare to Louis-Ferdinand Celine, a man who also wrote caustic, near-plotless monologues, rife with ellipses…although Rhys’ ellipses suggest broken trains of thought, confusion, sluggishness, rather than, as with Death on Credit, recklessness, tension, and breakneck speed.

She watches herself anxiously, fusses over her appearance, recovers her spirits after a visit to the hairdresser. The episodes of her troubled life, coupled with her inclination to ponder has left her misanthropic.Sasha has to make amends with the fact it is over, and that the heart was given in the wrong place, to the wrong person. until the café closes and she makes her way back to a room – one room or another on one street or another – they’re all the same, that is, none of them are much, just a cheap room. I know she died because the falling apart ended up where she already was and I could make a guess about dead babies and hospital bracelets and another one of those broken men who loan money.

There are some great lines, for example, things like “there must be the dark background to show up the bright colours. It is through this lens that we witness Sasha's world in 1930s Paris come to life, a vivid tableau of romantic suffering leading to an existential crisis.Even friends or at least acquaintances in London, joking at her, asking why she doesn’t drown herself in the Seine … ah so funny, just what she needs to hear. It’s like learning all about girls from that disreputable uncle who used to keep back issues of Penthouse lying out in plain view and who spoke vaguely yet appealingly about Zen Buddhism. Sasha is the woman who has had her heart broken; she is the woman who loved and lost: she is the loner. While I'm on awesome televised plays starring John Malkovich that influenced my teen years, Sophia has a very Lee in (Sam Shepard's) True West moment about people in windows and their lights and how not alone other people look. It's no coincidence that women stood tall at the cross—a symbolic representation of humanity's ultimate suffering.

This book was written in 1939, and having come through one World War, Rhys could surely see the world standing at the threshold of the second. Every word I say has chains around its ankles; every thought I think is weighted with heavy weights. Although early critics noted that Good Morning, Midnight was well written, they found its depressing storyline ultimately repellent.Two phrases recur almost as mantras: variations on: “I have no pride – no pride, no name, no face, no country. She throws herself into his arms in the darkness of the hall, ecstatic that he didn’t leave—she can’t believe how good it feels to experience romantic excitement again. It was a buddy read with Elyse and sparked a great dialogue about our relationships with men and mirrors. Out of the frying pan and into the cold ashes left over in the place where you wish there was a fire.

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