What’s it all about?:
Autobiographically inspired, Rhys created stories of the slightly adrift every woman looking for an anchor in a cold, hostile landscape. Her heroine in Voyage in the Dark is Anna Morgan, a young woman in her late teens, relocated to England from her beloved home in the West Indies. She works as a chorus girl, traveling the country to dank boarding rooms and shabby theaters. Fortune seems to grab her one day in the shape of a wealthy, older man who sets her up in London, calling for her as his needs dictate. Anna falls in love with him, and allows herself to rely on him totally. When he grows tired of her, she begins a long spiraling decline. This is poignant, tense writing by the woman whom A. Alvarez called “the best living English novelist.”
What did I think?:
Before reading this novel, I was not very familiar with the work of Jean Rhys, although I was aware of her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, noted as the prequel to Jane Eyre, which focuses on Mr Rochester’s insane wife. Voyage in the Dark is one of her more popular and widely known works, and apparently also one of her most autobiographical. Our main character is a young woman called Anna Morgan who moves to England from the West Indies where she was brought up after the death of her father. Anna makes her living in the theatre at first, moving from one boarding house to another which were often in a pitiful condition due to her lack of funds. Then she meets a wealthy older man – Walter, who takes her under his wing and provides for her. Due to her lack of experience and naivety she falls in love with him, and is crushed when he breaks off their relationship, declining mentally into a sort of madness, under a haze of depression.
I read the edition of this novel with an introduction to the author written by Carole Angier and found it intriguing to read about the life of Jean Rhys, and how many parallels this story shares with her own troubled life. At the time of writing this novel she had returned to England from France which she had sworn never to do, had made a second unhappy marriage, and was drinking heavily – allegedly she finished it on “two bottles of wine per day.” I did enjoy the writing style, and the unique way of telling the story from Anna’s point of view, where some parts were like a stream of consciousness, where the reader got to experience all sensations, memories, and emotions, both past and present according to Anna. As a character, she was interesting, and incredibly naive particularly when it came to men, and I’m afraid at some times I found her quite self-pitying, when she would do nothing but sleep and drink. In this way, the novel was very bleak but at times also quite poignant, when Anna would imagine happier times in her life in the West Indies. I don’t really want to say too much about the ending but you probably wouldn’t expect it to be happy would you?
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):