It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?
[ About the Book ]
‘A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?
This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11 – this novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.
[ My Ramblings ]
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a novel by Ottessa Moshfegh and is one of just two novels featured in a shortlist of six books nominated for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize. The Wellcome Book Prize celebrates ‘the best new books that illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives’ and is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year.
Ottessa Moshfegh was awarded the 2016 PEN/Hemingway Award for her novel Eileen, a novel that was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. and described as ‘a taut psychological thriller’ by The Times. In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, the author tackles the subjects of loneliness and mental health that are both endemic in our society today. Although set in the year 2000, it is a theme that remains very strong in our modern lives. The novel is described as ‘a shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation’
The nameless narrator lives in New York in luxury after inheriting her parents estate, following their tragic deaths. Her father, a professor, passed away from cancer some years previously and her mother within six weeks of his death, by her own hand. The relationship between parent and child was non-existent and, being an only child, our narrator experienced their passing in a very isolated manner. She is a person who has struggled all her life, never truly fitting in with the world, always at odds with what she feels society expects of her. Life in the Manhattan scene as a very attractive, slim and well-off young woman would be the aim of many, especially that of Reva, the one friend who recurs in her life throughout the tale.
But for our narrator, this life is just not fulfilling her and her days have become soulless and empty. So she hatches a plan and decides to step back, take a year off away from the world. She attempts to build a virtual cocoon around herself for twelve months in the hope she will be reborn at the end of it with a fresher approach to life. Her method will be to self-medicate with prescription drugs and with a psychiatrist who has no restrictions on handing over the necessary tools to enable her. As she starts on this extremely extraordinary journey, she seems very focused on her intentions, on her plan and fully intends to see it through to it’s completion, readily accepting the black-outs and the horrendous nightmares that accompany her along the way.
The concept is bizarre in many ways but it is a reflection of how society has developed over the years. It’s far-fetched notion is very much in the abstract as an idea for many of us, but imagine if it were possible. Imagine if it were possible to place yourself in a ‘drug-induced coma’ for twelve months and wake up at the end revitalised and reborn? All the pain and grief eradicated, hidden away, allowing you to start all over again.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a literary novel that will most definitely not be to everyone’s liking. It is a very, very quirky study of the human mind and how we can rationalise almost anything if it suits us. The main character is quite self-centred and narcissistic in her actions. She does have a privileged lifestyle but that vacuum in her life is ever-present leading her down a very dark and painful path. This novel is more than just a study of the life of one NYC resident. She is but a representative of our society today, reflecting the loss of the social contact and the shift in our culture as human beings. Very dark, very disconcerting and ultimately very sad.
[ Author Bio ]
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from Boston. She was awarded the Plimpton Prize for her stories in the Paris Review and granted a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Her first book, the novella McGlue, was recently published by Vintage. Her novel Eileen was awarded the 2016 PEN/Hemingway Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
[ About The Wellcome Book Prize ]
The Wellcome Book Prize is an annual award, launched in 2009, open to new works of fiction or non-fiction. To be eligible for entry, a book should have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness. This can cover many genres of writing – including crime, romance, popular science, sci fi and history.
At some point, medicine touches all our lives. Books that find stories in those brushes with medicine are ones that add new meaning to what it means to be human. The subjects these books grapple with might include birth and beginnings, illness and loss, pain, memory, and identity. In keeping with its vision and goals, the Wellcome Book Prize aims to excite public interest and encourage debate around these topics.
The shortlist for the 10th anniversary prize is:
Amateur: A true story about what makes a man by Thomas Page McBee
Heart: A history by Sandeep Jauhar
Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery by Arnold Thomas Fanning
Murmur by Will Eaves
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
The winner will be revealed at an evening ceremony on Wednesday 1 May at Wellcome Collection.