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Modern Classics Good Morning Midnight [Paperback]

Jean Rhys , A L Kennedy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 24 2000 Penguin Modern Classics
An unforgettable portrait of a woman bravely confronting loneliness and despair in her quest for self-determination, Jean Rhys' "Good Morning Midnight" includes an introduction by A.L. Kennedy in "Penguin Modern Classics". In 1930s Paris, where one cheap hotel room is very like another, a young woman is teaching herself indifference. She has escaped personal tragedy and has come to France to find courage and seek independence. She tells herself to expect nothing, especially not kindness, least of all from men. Tomorrow, she resolves, she will dye her hair blonde. Jean Rhys was a talent before her time with an impressive ability to express the anguish of young, single women. In "Good Morning, Midnight" Rhys created the powerfully modern portrait of Sophia Jansen, whose emancipation is far more painful and complicated than she could expect, but whose confession is flecked with triumph and elation. One of the most honest and distinctive British novelists of the twentieth century, Jean Rhys wrote about women with perception and sensitivity in an innovative and often controversial way. Jean Rhys (1894-1979) was born in Dominica. Coming to England aged 16, she drifted into various jobs before moving to Paris, where she began writing and was 'discovered' by Ford Madox Ford. Her novels, often portraying women as underdogs out to exploit their sexualities, were ahead of their time and only modestly successful. From 1939 (when "Good Morning, Midnight" was written) onwards she lived reclusively, and was largely forgotten when she made a sensational comeback with her account of Jane Eyre's Bertha Rochester, "Wide Sargasso Sea", in 1966. If you enjoyed "Good Morning Midnight", you might like Rhys' "Voyage in the Dark", also available in "Penguin Modern Classics". "Her eloquence in the language of human sexual transactions is chilling, cynical, and surprisingly moving". (A.L. Kennedy).

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About the Author

Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in 1894. Coming to England aged 16, she drifted into various jobs before starting to write in Paris in the late 1920's. Her novels, often portraying women as underdogs out to exploit their sexualities, were ahead of their time and only modestly successful. From 1939 (when GOOD MORNING MIDNIGHT was written) onwards she lived reclusively, and was largely forgotten when she made a sensational comeback with 'Wide Sargasso Sea' in 1966. She died in 1979.

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'Quite like old times,' the room says. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark look inside a woman's mind April 18 2002
By JessH
"Good Morning, Midnight" tells the story of Sasha Jensen in post-war Paris. The author gets inside Sasha's head and exposes to the reader her low sense of self-worth and her misaligned priorities. We get glimpses into Sasha's past to give clues as to what has brought her to this state of depression. Sasha cares too much about what others around her think of her; she is always concious of how she must appear to waiters in cafes, people on the street and workers at the hotel where she is staying. She is always putting thoughts in their head of how they must percieve her. Sasha also does not have her financial priorities straight since she buys a fancy new hat and plans on buying other new items for her wardrobe and in the meantime is neglecting to eat.
I found "Good Morning, Midnight" a fascinating insight into a woman in a "low" psychological state. This book is not recommended if you are looking for an uplifting, feel-good story. "Good Monring, Midnight" would probably lead to great discussion for book groups.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Delicately Violent Jan. 11 2001
It is no wonder that after the publication of this novel people assumed Jean Rhys had committed suicide. It is a dark, introverted, soul-searching novel. It's brilliance lies in the compassion with which Sasha is treated. This is a woman who is unquestionably at the end of her tether. Life occurs almost unconsciously to her. She drinks non-stop and thinks of fashion before eating. But these aren't superficial choices. They are the few soft whispers of a woman about to go over the brink. Throughout the novel you are given brief glimpses of her past as a shop assistant and the troubles in her marriage. In themselves the troubles which result from them are not ample enough to drive a normal woman to such desperation. You feel that the reason for her state of mind is more the result of a profound neglect of her individual spirit by men. She is led on to believe in a progression of being, but is abandoned to clutch at the ghosts of her old haunts in Paris. This is a sharp contrast to the ideas that we have about artistic scene of Paris in this time period. It is a more sincerely concentrated personal experience than most accounts. It is interesting to think of the end in contrast to the jubilant yeses of Molly Bloom in Ulysses. Sasha's yes is one of doom and resignation to a world that has flown past her.
Despite its depressing character, this novel is a fascinating look at a tendency to sink into a psychological state often ignored. It is also a subtle portrayal of an identity built on a knife's edge. Luckily, Ms Rhys did survive this novel (however unhappily). It is a miracle that she did considering the violent lack of self worth of Sasha; to have imagined such a person must have been terrifying indeed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Last night was a catastrophe..." Oct. 8 2000
By A Customer
Just about every night is a catastrophe for Sasha Jansen, the heroine of Jean Rhys's excellent novel. In less than two hundred pages, Rhys has effectively captured not only the bitter sentiments of the "lost generation" but also the huge scope of thoughts and experiences of a lonely brand of humans alienated by a cruel, hyprocritical society. The theme of the book comes straight from Sasha's mouth:
". . . And I'm very much afraid of the whole bloody human race. . . Who wouldn't be afraid of a pack of damned hyenas? . . . And when I say afraid -- that's just a word I use. What I really mean is that I hate them. I hate their voices, I hate their eyes, I hate the way they laugh . . . I hate the whole bloody business. It's cruel, it's idiotic, it's unspeakably horrible . . . Everything spoiled, all spoiled."
The frightening thing about this book is that Rhys successfully cuts through human illusions and comes out with a stark, brutal view of society as a "pack of hyenas." She suggests society is this way because people are insecure and must appease their egos through cruelty to others, but she does not entirely believe or accept this as a valid excuse for cruel behavior. This is a common theme in Rhys's books -- society committing spritual murder through cruelty -- and it is never shown better than here.
Sasha's bitter plight is quite realistic (it's obvious Rhys has had these experiences herself) and the social commentary biting, told through lean and somewhat dream-like stream-of-consciousness prose. The long dialogues and battles of wills between Sasha and the gigolo culminate in a tense, unforgettable ending -- an excellent book by one of the most underrated authors of the Twentieth Century.
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4.0 out of 5 stars IT'S ALL SASHA! May 27 2000
By A Customer
I once read that Jean Rhys was reaching for her mascara when she died. So I'm not surprised, or even shocked, that Sasha, the main character of GMM, is almost pathologically vain. After consuming only croissants every day for several weeks, she buys a hat with the little money she has. But the whole point of the book is that Sasha has a public persona that mostly does not jibe with her private, interior musings. She struggles to maintain her facade and her integrity. As most of us do. I remained sympathetic. Don't expect much plot. The majesty of GMM--besides the impeccable language--is that we are inside Sasha's thoughts, her stream-of-consciousness as she goes about her everyday existence in Paris. It's ALL Sasha. Coping with loss, or near-loss, of youth, beauty, money. She is a woman of subtle contradictions. A cautionary note: I found the ending devastating and dramatic. Many readers, especially women, will be infuriated and/or saddened by Sasha's actions at the end. I think this book is an excellent choice for a women's book club, since the end will spark a lively discussion. (By the way, I LOVED WIDE SARGASSO SEA by this same author.)
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