On Saturday, my husband and I went to see Love and Friendship; the latest Austen adaptation. It's a guessing game as to how far away from Toronto some of these films will appear so we took the train in and made a day of it. I've never read Lady Susan so the experience was all the better for the sheer enjoyment of wondering who would end up where and with whom. The film is shot quite tightly so it's lacking those cinematic English landscapes that made Merchant Ivory films so achingly beautiful. The trade off with Love and Friendship is that you'll spend more time laughing. Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin is wonderful at playing the witless aristocrat. Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan is gorgeous in her sweeping silks but I was thrown every time she flashed her Hollywood veneers. No one in everyday life has teeth like that now, nevermind the eighteenth century. At any rate, the film is a terrific respite from the superhero genre crowding the marquee these days and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Moving right along with my thoughts on Good Morning, Midnight...
'Back in Paris for a 'quiet, sane fortnight', Sasha Jensen has just been rescued by a friend from drinking herself to death in a Bloomsbury bed-sitter'.
I find it impossible to resist Bloomsbury as a setting so it was just the hook to reel me in. And I'm glad, as the atmosphere of 'bare light bulb despair' isn't one I'm normally drawn to. Told in a first person narrative, the reader is a voyeur into the life of a good woman who has made a series of bad choices. Obviously Sasha's situation is more complex than that...men who were less than caring, marriage to a selfish and unstable partner and the death of their infant son have almost destroyed her and stripped away any confidence she may have once had. In fact, Sasha isn't even her real name; she also wishes a drug existed which would make her invisible to people.
When a long-time friend gives Sasha a bit of money to lift her from her state of depression, she returns to Paris, a place where she lived for many years. The daily routine of looking for cheap food and accommodation, and a place to drink continue, so we can only wonder if there is any hope for this middle-aged woman who thinks of drinking yourself to death as a 'bloodless killing'.
At one point, Sasha is wandering around Paris dressed in one of her last garments carrying any note of prestige. It's a fur coat but any lustre has long since faded. A gigolo named René notices Sasha in his sites and begins his pursuit. Every bad choice, event, circumstance that has come before should have made Sasha run in the opposite direction but René is someone to pretend with. René is in turns frustrated by the slow pace of his procurement of Sasha's money and intrigued by the complexity of her personality. Eventually, even he is conflicted about what his next step should be.
It's a testament to sublime writing on the part of Jean Rhys that I kept reading. And I should say, not just reading but riveted! This woman drove me crazy at times and yet with every page I continued to root for a happy ending. I felt sorry for Sasha and her spiraling condition. The ending made me close the book and just let it lay in my lap for awhile as I mulled it over. Then I reread the last couple of pages.
A colleague of mine wants to borrow my copy so I'll pass it on but I want it back. There's so much more to glean from Sasha's story and several ways to interpret her thoughts and actions. At only 159 pages Good Morning, Midnight would make an excellent book group read and Sasha Jensen is likely to stay with me for a very long time.
1890 - 1979