Culture

Review: Stephenie Meyer basks in the glow of her Midnight Sun

Image: Two pomegranates, one cut into three pieces with seeds spilling out, on a black background.

Are we still unequivocally and irrevocably in love with the Twilight Saga?

Let’s face it, Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun is not the book release we need, but the emotional release we deserve. Amid the current climate of gloom and doom, it is increasingly appealing to retreat into the escapist fiction of our youth. I was a massive Twilight fan in my early teens, when watching the latest film at the cinema was something of a cultural landmark. Even in recent years, I have come to regard the series with a kind of ironic fondness, from its glorious soundtrack to its melodramatic protagonists. Meyer is keenly aware that her avid audience of Midnight Sun readers is essentially a group of nostalgic twenty-somethings with strong opinions on the relative merits of Team Edward versus Team Jacob.

Meyer is keenly aware that her avid audience of Midnight Sun readers is essentially a group of nostalgic twenty-somethings with strong opinions on the relative merits of Team Edward versus Team Jacob.

The immediate success of Midnight Sun must, of course, be measured by today’s social media-centric world: memes stormed the internet in the wake of Stephenie Meyer’s announcement, and fans rushed to re-watch the saga, now streaming on Netflix. While many first impressions ridiculed Meyer’s narrative style, the length of the book (a whopping 756 pages) and Edward Cullen’s theatrical monologues, these criticisms were tinged with affection for the series. Twilight is a guilty pleasure for many people, and Meyer relies upon our weakness to generate the hype surrounding Midnight Sun.

Meyer’s choice to re-write Twilight from Edward’s perspective is simultaneously amusing and exasperating. Edward oscillates between the self-pitying, the overdramatic and the pragmatic. His lamentations give die-hard fans a welcome insight into characters who were side-lined in Bella’s limited version of events, like members of the Cullen family and the Denali Coven. He also shares some of his earliest memories as a vampire, and how these have shaped his twenty-first century personality. Perhaps his most sensible moments are when he questions Bella’s sanity – namely, her lack of self-preservation and determination to give up her human life for a sparkly vampire.

The writing certainly isn’t worthy of Emily Brontë (Bella’s favourite author), but it has spawned some memorable lines, from Edward comparing Bella to Persephone as she eats mushroom ravioli, to him roundly abusing her Chevrolet truck as a “geriatric sloth.” Despite this, Edward reveals himself to be endearingly average in his human tendencies. He is jealous at the prospect of classmate Mike Newton wanting to date Bella, overwhelmed by her touch, and irritated by the petty thoughts of virtually everyone at Forks High School. Then there are his stranger habits that even being a mythical creature cannot excuse, like watching Bella sleep, a behaviour that Edward himself – thankfully – admits is inappropriate and stalker-like.

If readers are satisfied in the knowledge that even Edward views his obsession with Bella as deeply unhealthy, they are nonetheless bombarded with nearly 800 pages of a despondent and neurotic vampire’s every thought.

If readers are satisfied in the knowledge that even Edward views his obsession with Bella as deeply unhealthy, they are nonetheless bombarded with nearly 800 pages of a despondent and neurotic vampire’s every thought. Twilight is, arguably, the least interesting book in the series; Midnight Sun deprives us of what would be a highly amusing mental confrontation between Edward and Jacob, antagonists in the iconic love triangle which managed to drag out the series over four books.

Perhaps Meyer sees Midnight Sun as an ambitious read worthy of the tragic heights of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Perhaps not. Either way, whether you were a closeted Twihard in your youth or a cynical non-believer, Midnight Sun is worth a read. After all, Edward Cullen died during a pandemic and was revived during one – this might be the only redeeming feature of 2020.

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