When life becomes overwhelming, whether it be from work, University, or just general life, I find that there’s nothing better for the soul than to pick up a good book. A good book ultimately comes down to personal preference. A novel that I may recommend as five stars may not appeal to you one bit, and it may take 200 pages for you to realise a certain book isn’t for you. But, with my reviews I hope to give you a small insight into why I love a book while at the same time keeping the element of surprise just for your reading experience.
The book that I’m reviewing this month is quite like marmite– you’ll either hate it or love it. In my opinion, it was one of the most engaging and intricate novels I read this year and will definitely be in my top ten reads of 2022.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation centres around the life of an unnamed young women living in New York City. Our narrator should be ‘happy’ being young, beautiful, and worry-free, not having to stress about money or a job. Whilst her friends believe she should be living the best life, she’s also facing loss, trauma, and severe depression. Following the death of both her parents within a year and the supposed ‘end’ of her unhealthy relationship with her Wall Street boyfriend, our narrator decides her only way to cope and survive is to sleep her life away for a whole year.
The reader is taken through the lead up and execution of this young women’s extreme plan where we experience sadness and a truthful representation of serious mental health issues intertwined with wicked humour, which gives this book an edge. I think the reason I loved this book so much and wanted to share it with you all is because I have never read anything like it, and the concept is so unique.
Perhaps the most important theme to mention that is brought up consistently throughout this novel is mental health and depression. When faced with severe depression, oversleeping is a common side-effect and one which takes centre stage in this book. Our narrator is facing significant trauma from both her parents’ deaths, with her dad from cancer and her mum from suicide.
As the novel develops, we become aware that as a daughter, the narrator didn’t have a typical, loving family relationship with her parents. The relationship was in fact very detached and has, perhaps, only added to the seriousness of her mental health issues after their deaths. Although Moshfegh intertwines these difficult topics with a unique sense of dark humour, you still can’t help but feel sad for the narrator and what she is facing. The situation our narrator finds herself in is a bizarre one, but it is hard not to become emotionally invested in her mental recovery, and, as the reader, I found myself wanting her to sleep her worries away and awake a new and revived individual.
The few characters which we are introduced to throughout the novel all tend to make her mental situation considerably worse. There’s the strained relationship with her best friend who, although attempting to help her friend, only tells her to drink and talk her sorrows away when her friend is clearly drowning her own sorrows with an unhealthy concoction of drugs.
Perhaps the unhealthiest relationship is between our narrator and her supposed psychiatrist, Dr Tuttle. Ultimately, Dr Tuttle is our narrator’s enabler. This unhinged and rather horrid psychiatrist provides her with endless amounts of drugs to fuel her desire to sleep away her problems without even attempting to resolve the root of her issues.
Although at first glance you may think this book is rather depressing, the dark and witty humour that Moshfegh integrates into the book make it such an enjoyable read. At its core this book may also seem boring. How interesting can a 200-page book about someone sleeping be?
You’ll find yourself laughing aloud at the general ridiculousness of the situation and at the wicked humour of the protagonist. The author has managed to reveal a realistic representation of what depression, anxiety, and trauma can do to someone while simultaneously managing to keep it lighthearted and keep you hooked. The constant absurdity of our narrator’s life, from her obsession with Whoopi Goldberg to her three-day blackouts, are what makes this novel stand out.
Moshfegh’s humorous approach to some questionable and challenging events allows the reader to really get into the mindset of the protagonist and help us understand why she’s doing what she’s doing, as sleeping for six months doesn’t really seem to be one of the smartest ideas. With this in mind, I will say that Moshfegh’s protagonist is not meant to be liked, a daring literary decision to make. I found myself getting frustrated with her at times and wanting to shake her out of this drug-fuelled obsession with sleeping her life away.
Whilst it is completely acceptable to hate a character from start to finish, Moshfegh’s unwinding of her narrator, layer by layer, made me see her in a different light.
Ultimately this is a bold piece of work which lingers between the line of reality and absurdity. Moshefgh’s writing and prose brings this book to life and certainly makes it one that you can’t put down until it’s finished. This is a fascinating and engrossing novel which is full of twists and turns right to the very last page.
You can read more of Hannah’s work by following @hw.reads on.
Page turner: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️