World-famous scientist Augie has spent his whole life searching the stars, trying to unlock secrets held light years away. His brilliant mind is attuned to the vastness of space, but closed to the workings of human life on earth. Always looking up and out, he shuns relationships and closes himself off. Sully has also spent her life looking up. Inspired by her mother’s work in astronomy, she too has dedicated her life to space. Closing herself off from her husband and young daughter, family and friends, she sacrifices all in order to fulfil her ambition to travel further in space than anyone before.
This compelling tale takes a close look at human connections and does so by isolating the two main characters. One is stranded deep in the Arctic Circle winter, the other is part of a small space crew on the long and slow journey home from Jupiter. Not only physically isolated, our characters are also isolated by a catastrophic event on Earth which kills everyone else. What this horrific event is, is never expanded upon; neither is it important. The aftermath is where we see Augie and Sully face their emotional isolation; stripped of the ’noise’ of daily interactions of human life, the stillness and silence gives them pause to reflect on their life journeys.
Even with four other crew mates, Sully has remained closed off, and as the sudden silence from Earth presses on their fears and the reality of their dangerous situation hits home, she comes to understand just what she has truly left behind. As winter thaws slowly into spring, Augie finds his soul too slowly thawing, with the help of the mysterious Iris, a young girl left behind in the research camp evacuation. He looks after her, begrudgingly at first, and in that cold, desolate landscape, he finally learns what it means to care for another person.
Good Morning, Midnight is not my usual type of read, however the tag question on the cover ‘When the world stops listening, who do you become?’ intrigued me. I did find myself wanting to know what had happened to everyone on Earth but that is a different type of story to tell.
Lily Brooks-Dalton paints a vivid picture of both settings – the cold frozen Arctic outpost, the sun slowly returning in symmetry with Augie’s personal thawing, and the small enclosed ship adrift in endless space, cut off from the security of communication with ground control. Both vast and dangerous, both depicted in believable and crisp detail that entwines cleverly with a plot driven by the characters’ personal development and acceptance of their fates.
In a society which thrives on connection and constant communication, the concept of total silence to many may seem incomprehensible; alarming almost. It is within this enforced silence however that both protagonists begin to truly hear and understand themselves. It is also from this silence that they make a connection that is a long time overdue, one that becomes more obvious and fitting as the story plays out. A reflective and absorbing story; it is one to savour to the last word.
Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen
Good Morning, Midnight
by Lily Brooks-Dalton
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson