Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

"Voyage in the Dark" by Jean Rhys (Penguin, 1969)

First published in 1934. It mentions Southsea, near where I was born. The main character, Anna, is 18-19, from the West Indes. She thinks back to the heat and church of her childhood, writes "I wanted to be black ... Being black is warm and gay, being white is cold and sad" (p.27). She reacts to some events by feeling cold.

The comma-count is low, the vocabulary simple ("discourse" on p.38 comes as a surprize). The clean, non-judgemental style slides towards stream of consciousness on p.36, then back. She has a rich lover, but doesn't see him often -

That was when it was sad, when you lay awake at night and remembered things. That was when it was sad, when you stood by the bed and undressed, thinking, 'When he kisses me, shivers run up my back. I am hopeless, resigned, utterly happy. Is that me? I am bad, not good and longer, bad. That has no meaning, absolutely none. Just words. But something about the darkness of the streets has a meaning.' (p.49)

Later she slips again, and the author uses repetition again

I didn't answer. I was thinking, 'You don't know anything about me. I don't care any more.' And I didn't care any more.
It was like letting go and falling back into water and seeing yourself grinning up through the water, your face like a mask, and seeing the bubbles coming up as if you were trying to speak from under the water. And how do you know what it's like to try to speak from under water when you're drowned?

She has a few female friends -

Her eyes were cleverer than the rest of her. When she half-shut them you saw that she knew she had her own cunning, which would always save her, which was sufficient to her. Feelers grow when feelers are needed and claws are needed and cunning when cunning is needed ... (p.92)

At the end of part 3, when she's decided to have an abortion, things seem no worse than they were a while before

Everything was always so exactly alike - that was what I could never get used to. And the cold; and the houses all exactly alike, and the streets going north, south, east, west, all exactly alike. (p.152)

At the end, after the abortion she might be ok

When their voices stopped the ray of light came in again under the door like the last thrust of remembering before everything is blotted out. I lay and watched it and thought about starting all over again. And about mornings, and misty days, when anything might happen. And about starting all over again, all over again ... (p.159)

The repetition of the language has become the repetition of her world.

Other reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment