Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Whatever you think this book is going to be, you're wrong I'm afraid. I was expecting a touching story of a young woman who decides to do nothing for an entire year in an effort to improve her mental health. I suppose that is what it achieves...but it's not executed in the way you would expect.
Our protagonist objectively has a lot going for her; she has been left a huge fortune from her parents, along with an enormous upper east side apartment in Manhattan. She is slim, beautiful, and a recent Colombia university graduate, allowing her to effortlessly land a dream job (for many) of working in a high end art gallery. There are multiple issues in her life, so she decides to spend an entire year sleeping. This novel took me by surprise. The humour is so dark and satirical that despite the fact that the protagonist (along with every single side character) is entirely awful, you cannot help but be hung on their every word. We meet several: her cold-hearted and money obsessed parents, her 'best-friend' Reva, who constantly complains, cannot take a hint and is entirely self-obsessed. Her ex-boyfriend Trevor, who is emotionally abusive and sadistic and finally, her therapist who should have absolutely in no way been given a license to practice medicine. Interestingly, all of these traits seem to be present in our main character. She is able to be incredibly critical of others without ever truly criticising herself. The plot is completely non-existent. This is one of those books where absolutely nothing happens. If done right, I am a sucker for this trope. Luckily, this book entirely took me by surprise. Despite it being under 300 pages, all of the characters were hilarious despite their repulsive eccentricities and well fleshed out. I felt like I got to know them all, and hate them all. So the lack of plot and ongoing storyline was a non-issue. I picked up this book in the hope for a few tips on 'how to enjoy the little things', seeing as we follow a character who decides to do nothing for a year (currently being in lockdown, I was expecting to feel enlightened). This wasn't what I got. Instead, I laughed over and over; perhaps more than I have laughed at any book. Moshfegh does an impeccable job of writing despicable characters that you want to hear more from, whilst simultaneously making fun of them and their upper class ways.
The humour is very dark, so I wouldn't say this book is for everyone. But if you can to be open-minded to see all the characters be caricatures of the New York elite, and take a light-hearted approach towards a blatantly very depressed cast of people, this book will pleasantly surprise you.
Initial Prediction: 4 stars
Final Rating: 4.5 stars
Publication Date: 10 July 2018 (my edition: 2 May 2019)
# of Pages: 289