Voyage in the Dark
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Voyage in the Dark

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  1,479 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Rhys's voice is starkly simple, yet sharp as nails. Autobiographically inspired, Rhys created stories of the slightly adrift everywoman looking for an anchor in a cold, hostile landscape.
Paperback, 188 pages
Published December 31st 1982 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1934)
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Oct 27, 2013 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Here's lookin' at you, kid
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Lauren Highton
They watch you, their faces like masks, set in the eternal grimace of disapproval.

While a first love can be a period of intensely effervescent emotion and passion, the decline and death of the ill-fated romance is often a harrowing and hellish plunge into the darkness of pain and sorrow. Jean Rhys impeccable Voyage in the Dark chronicles such a descent, or tragic voyage, through the rise and fall of Anna Morgan’s love affair with a wealthy Englishman. Anna, coming from the West Indies and work...more
Feb 16, 2012 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cassiopeia
Recommended to Mariel by: I'm so sirius
I grew to rely on the out of body life. If you could step outside yourself and put your hands to fit with your other hand on the glass like in one of those movies of a prison visit. The living your life in memories after and not ever during. The tingles and the shivers of the skin that's all ghost like. Hold your breath and wait until you can live it, later. It's so sad, that young Anna is in England in one of those stories that always made me relieved to be alive now and not when I'd have been...more
Jeffrey Keeten
” At the door she turned round and said, ‘I don’t want no tarts in my house, so now you know.’
I didn’t answer. My heart was beating like hell. I lay down and started thinking about the time when I was ill in Newcastle, and the room I had there, and that story about the walls of a room getting smaller and smaller until they crush you to death. The Iron Shroud, it was called. It wasn’t Poe’s story; it was more frightening than that. “I believe this damned room’s getting smaller and smaller,’ I tho
Aug 31, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young turks
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: the jean genie

This book didn’t pack as much of a wallop for me as After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie and Good Morning, Midnight, but I think that is the result of my reading these books back to back to back. I liken it to seeing reports of murder on the news; after witnessing so much tragedy, you get used to it and it ceases to affect you. It’s like novocaine for the soul.*


Oh Jean, I’m hooked on you and your gin soaked life. I know you’re telling me YOUR story. Not Julia’s, not Anna’s, not Sasha’s, yours. I’ve...more
“I fell,” I said. “I fell for a hell of a long time then.”

I’ve read this beautiful, bruised, dreamy novel four times. I’ve written on it for university. I’ve stared hard at the pages and tried to figure out just what about it is so special to me. Why I like it so much better than the other Rhys novels (this surely isn’t solely because it was my first.) Why something just about the words on the page looks beautiful to me, even when I cut out the meaning. The lyricism of the prose, the dreaminess...more
This is a fascinating insight (heavily autobiographical) into the flighty and insecure world of a chorus girl in London, around the time of the first world war (though war is never mentioned).

Many other books set in this period feature chorus girls, but usually in a peripheral way that makes their lives seem exotic and exciting, until they settle down to conventional respectability, quietly disappear, or, less often, meet a tragic end. The storyline here is more nuanced and complex - and still...more
One of my favorite novels of all time. This book is like a great rock and roll band that's never been discovered by the masses. A gritty, poignant, modernist take on colonialism, loss and sexual deviance. Hail Jean Rhys. The coolest female voice in literature. Sultry, damaged and delicate... just like her last words on her death bed - "More rouge darling. Please apply more rouge." Indeed!
Read this concurrently with Anais Nin’s ‘A spy in the house’, and Rhys comes in a resounding Third. Don’t know who is Second place, but can’t give it to Rhys. The woman doesn’t know what she’s doing. Not stylistically, not narratively, not ‘nothing.

When Voyage came out in the 1930s it shocked the ‘Establishment’ (or what was left of it anyway), by giving the first female voice ever to a member of the demi-monde. Previously, the incumbents had only ever spoken to us with the falsetto timbre of ma...more
Nate D
May 07, 2012 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: discarded chorus-girls of any time/place/gender
Recommended to Nate D by: Mariel
This is England, and I'm in a nice, clean English room with all the dirt swept under the bed. (p.31)

Perfect, civil society is never that. Maybe never that at all. Here, the civilized world that 19-year-old Anna has been dragged into and abandoned to by an itinerant step-mom (ever so proper and disapproving and ultimately careless with the fates of others) is contrasted sharply with the disorderly, supposedly improper lives of faded colonials in the West Indies of Anna's girlhood. "Not a proper g...more
Early on I was prepared to give this one 5 stars. Rhys can really write, and can hold her own w/ folks like Hemingway (whom she most resembles, but from a female perspective). The sentences. Oh, the sentences. Rhys can totally balance out precision and nuance in a single line. Don't ask me to explain, I just know it when I read it, and I don't run across it too often. The problem I had w/ this short novel (barely over a hundred pages), is its bleakness, its oppressiveness. It's like the mood est...more
Two quotes:

"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 any longer, bad. That has no meaning, absolutely none. Just words. But something about the darkness of the streets has a meaning.' "

"It was like letting go and falling back into water and seeing yourself grinning up thr...more
Lee Foust
Written in the most exquisitely controlled prose imaginable, Voyage in the Dark is a modernist classic by the talented, often ill-fated, and frequently self-destructive Jean Rhys; this one, like so many of her novels, is all too autobiographically situated within that tripartite nexus that seemed to leave her no other choice but to lead a dogged aesthetic resistance to her own life in her brutally honest self-revelatory fictions. The novel invokes the horrors of the sexual double standard and it...more
"But in the daytime it was all right. And when you'd had a drink you knew it was the best way to live in the world because anything might happen. I don't know how people live when they know exactly what's going to happen to them each day."

Bleak. Subtle. Poignant. This novel is beautiful because it's true. Jean Rhys pulls us into the darkness with Anna as she navigates--often drunkenly--the rough, lonely waters of adulthood.

I love this girl.
Pete daPixie
I think I've blundered into this authors life, and stuck my big foot into the middle of someone's breakdown. Now, I discover that Rhys wrote two novels either side of this one; 'Quartet' in 1929, 'After leaving Mr Mackenzie' in 1931, 'Good Morning Midnight' 1939 and 'Wide Sargasso Sea' in 1966. 'Voyage in the dark' was published in 1934.
'Voyage in the dark' is a stark journey. Even the writing is stark. There is very little flamboyance in her style of prose, but that only enhances the feeling th...more
Jan 05, 2014 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nineteen-year-olds in certain situations
Recommended to Jessica by: my sister left it in my apartment when she visited me!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What a tiny little sad book. It's so full of awfulness I don't know if it could be any longer. A young and lonely woman is trapped in England in the 1930's, trying to be a chorus girl. She falls in love with an older man who gives her a lot of money and then leaves her (letting her know this by sending his friend to her, no less). It goes from there. I don't want to give anything away. It's sad, in the saddest way a book can be. A little self-indulgent? Perhaps. Anna doesn't do a lot of anything...more
Elizabeth Moffat
Three and a half stars from me..
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...more
Reading Jean Rhys is painful because in her writing, beauty is intrinsically associated with pain. The beauty of her memories, her dreams, her humanity; this is all invariably trapped within the ugliness of human nature, the brutality and anonymity of London life, from losing yourself within men and relying so fully on others that you're a shadow of your own identity, trapped by dreams of the sea and sun and innocence.

Voyage in the Dark is the story of 18 year old Anna's life in London, followin...more
Nov 04, 2011 selena rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to selena by: Kirsten
Sometimes the earth trembles; sometimes you can feel it breathe. The colours are red, purple, blue, gold, all shades of green. The colours here are black, brown, grey, dim-green, pale blue, the white of people's faces - like woodlice. -page 54

reading jean rhys for me felt incredibly important, something that I had been lacking all of this time. a long-time friend had read voyage in the dark and reviewed it and something about the way she talked about the main character reminded me of everything...more
To me this book is a perfect example of how a story can have a protagonist I simply do not relate to but still be brilliant and enjoyable. Jean Rhys is a superb writer, and in this book shows she was ahead of the curve of modernist writing by a few decades. She works with images rather than ideas and paints rather than describes. The story and the characters are, I think, intentionally unappealing, or untrustworthy, or distant, but that didn't stop me from devouring this book, as it is extremely...more
This book started off my love of Jean Rhys's work. The narrator is almost frustratingly set on her own destruction, but the story has a kind of seedy romance and depressing glamour which is highly addictive. The writing is just wonderful, I heard somewhere that Jean Rhys was almost mathematical in her approach to editing her manuscripts and I can believe it, there is a sense of complete control beneath all the emotion of the plot which makes the novel feel beautifully balanced.
A very moving story of a young lady, immigrant to London, and her struggles with living, and what can only be described as the necessary sexual transactions with men. Devastating and cynical, written in the beautiful, disarming style of Rhys. To know her story is to know so much of this is autobiographical, which makes it only more heartbreaking in parts.

Very modern despite when it was written, it felt very raw as one understood the necessity of women at the time to find a place in society was d...more
Do yourself a favor. Go beyond _Sargasso Sea_. All about the early 20th century parts of Paris & London no one wrote about--the drab parlors, the flower ladies, the bedsits, the artists' cafes, the young women punished cruelly just for having sex...C'mon, read it.
This work is actually a 3.5, but because it is so well written I'll go ahead and throw in the extra half star.

That being said, I can appreciate Rhys' style of writing since it is very direct and there are no hidden meanings that you have to struggle to understand. This roman a clef critiques the caste system as the protagonist is a woman who is stuck in the skin of a white woman with few options of living.

However, I will say whilst beautifully I hated Anna Morgan's character not because I did...more
At first while reading Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark, I didn't know what to think, but once I started reading this sad story I became engrossed and as a girl could relate to this character. I think part of the reason Rhys is so successful here is because this book does have an autobiographical thread, so while I was reading I could feel that the pain Anna experiences is legitimate pain and not a crafted madness written by a man.

A huge aspect of this story is not just the physical and emotional...more
By random chance I was given a collection of Jean Rhys' novels and, with limited options while traveling, I read three of them. They are very good but tremendously depressing. Each one follows the same basic arc: a vague, shiftless, but nice enough girl finds herself falling deeply in love with a man who treats her poorly and then discards her, leaving her with no choice but to live off the occasional checks he sends to ease his conscience. These checks are all spent on new shoes and too many gl...more
"It's funny when you feel as if you don't want anything more in your life except to sleep, or else to lie without moving. That's when you can hear time sliding past you, like water running."

"The clothes of most of the women who passed were like caricatures of the clothes in the shop-windows, but when they stopped to look you saw that their eyes were fixed on the future. 'If I could buy this, then of course I'd be quite different.' Keep hope alive and you can do anything, and that's the way the w...more
I feel like I just recovered from an immensely depressing trip to a cold, grayish place where I did a whole lot of nothing. And liked it. There's something about this book that's both harsh and tender, not to mention a little oddball. There is certainly no cushioning in Rhys's writing, which is nice. Her book carries a mood around with it and not a happy one. I swear it should come with anti-depressants or at least a good drink. I kept forgetting that this was about a teenage girl, I guess that...more
Bleak. Bleak. Bleak. You'll laugh less than the protagonist Anna Morgan (once). Everyone hates everyone; London is a grimy and soul-destroying place absolutely lacking colour and vitality, except for the hotel rooms in which the seedy sexual encounters occur; there's no message or undercurrent of hope -- either characters have money and are able to move and escape their circumstances, or they are without and chained to their destinies; Anna is marginalised on account of her finances and her raci...more
The first book I have read by Jean Rhys - and not the last. Clearly biographical and very well written too. The protagonist - Anna - arrives in England from the West Indies and has to adapt to a new country, a new culture, and a society that is changing fast. Anna is ill equipped to deal with her life as a chorus girl traveling the country, and the characters she encounters. Most of whom want something from her and in the process leave her more damaged. The writing is wonderful and I was engross...more
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Bright Young Things: Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys 20 62 Nov 18, 2013 09:03AM  
  • Asylum Piece
  • HERmione
  • Lolly Willowes
  • A House and Its Head
  • Two Serious Ladies
  • The Lonely Londoners
  • Someone at a Distance
  • Blue Eyes, Black Hair
  • Pitch Dark
  • The Young Visiters
  • Taking Care
  • Lady into Fox
  • All Passion Spent
  • The Seventh Horse And Other Tales
  • Quicksand and Passing
  • The Bridge of Beyond
  • The Echoing Grove
  • Mouthing the Words
Jean Rhys originally Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, was a Caribbean novelist who wrote in the mid 20th century. Her first four novels were published during the 1920s and 1930s, but it was not until the publication of Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 that she emerged as a significant literary figure. A "prequel" to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea won a prestigious WH Smith Literary Award in...more
More about Jean Rhys...
Wide Sargasso Sea Good Morning, Midnight After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie Quartet Sleep it Off Lady: Stories by Jean Rhys

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“Something came out from my heart into my throat and then into my eyes.” 68 likes
“And I saw that all my life I had known that this was going to happen, and that I'd been afraid for a long time, I'd been afraid for a long time. There's fear, of course, with everybody. But now it had grown, it had grown gigantic; it filled me and it filled the whole world.” 42 likes
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