This post was republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost posts archive
Comes the Night by Hollis Hampton-Jones
Meade and Ben Ho are nineteen year old twins; they are Americans in Paris, rich kids. They have one of those incredibly close, empathic and near telepathic twin relationships. Ben Ho is at art school, Meade plays at cookery classes to occupy her days, but walks out on that to become a model.
Meade is obsessed by her weight – she’s a bulimic; her brother thinks she’s too thin. Becoming a model takes that obsession to the next step and she becomes thinner still, surviving on just occasional mouthfuls of proper food which she usually throws up, washed down with booze, and a cocktail of drugs for every mood and occasion.
She gets a new boyfriend – an Iranian photographer. Majid has been tortured and this is reflected in the bondage of their lovemaking. When Ben Ho gets a girlfriend, Meade’s twin-ness is threatened and she begins to lose her sense of indentity and her thoughts get darker and darker:
I’m going to have a heart attack.
I’ll die on white sheets and Majid will wake up and find me. And my soul will be released, and I’ll be back in the womb with Ben Ho. I smooth my hair, fold my hands over my chest and wait to die, but I become so calm at this thought that my heartbeat returns to its normal, sluggish state, and I don’t die. So I get up and have a cigarette.
I wouldn’t be giving anything away to say that Meade’s descent into herself is inevitable. Once Ben Ho is no longer always around to ground her, and with no parents present to hold her in check, it’s just a matter of time. Majid is no help – he’s going there in his own way too.
The fashion industry depicted is totally glamorous, and utterly corrupted by drugs and the need to be size zero. Friendship is not an issue for the models themselves:
Gathered around the punchbowl are smiling models, not a common sight. In a corner, a DJ is choosing his next record. I sip some punch, and it tastes of fresh strawberries and oranges.
One of the smiling models leans into me and says, ‘MDMA is the secret ingredient.’ I down my glass.
It’s a bleak, nasty world she’s living in. Meade’s story is gripping and stunning in its dark intensity. Hampton-Jones’s biog tells that she has some experience in the fashion industry in Europe before moving back to the States, so she’s talking about what she knows – not a world I’d be happy in, but I was drawn into it briefly while reading this novel. The novel is that dark that even while you’re desperate to get Meade into rehab and away from the world she’s chosen, you walk the path with her for the duration. It was almost a relief to finish but, boy, it was a great read. (10/10)
Comes the Night is the author’s second novel. Her first, Vicious Spring, appears to be similarly dark, although leavened with humour, following the sexual awakening of a school-leaver from a Christian fundamentalist family on an acid trip. It sounds equally compelling.
Source: Review copy.
Hollis Hampton-Jones, Comes the Night (Penguin, 2011) paperback, 240 pages.