James Frey - Bright Shiny Morning (3 stars)

  • The List
  • 7 August 2008
James Frey

(John Murray)


Contrary to the promise of its title, Bright Shiny Morning will not lighten up your day. The thought of reading it will not fill you with delight, nor with longing to live the lives of those between its covers. None of which means this book is bad, as James Frey has a very good ear for dialogue and has written an intriguing novel peopled by characters whose presence lingers once reading has ceased. Rather, it’s because the book is unendingly sad. There are happy moments and sunny days, but these are interludes in the quotidian misery of the downbeat and wretched.

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, the novel meanders through the lives of its characters, intercut with historical and factual detail about the city, though whether the author has a reliable voice is another matter; you may recall the stir caused by Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which had him ejected from Oprah’s Book Club when his claims to be an alcoholic, drug addict and criminal were shown to be faked.

Sweet, in-love couple, Dylan and Maddie, run away to the city and cheerily set about creating a life until he is horrifically beaten and kidnapped. Meanwhile, Esperanza’s enormous thighs all but thwart her search for love. Old Man Joe shelters in dumpsters and fails in his role as protector of fellow vagrants. Amberton has it all – fame, fortune, acclaim and a beautiful wife – but must conceal his homosexuality, making do with escorts. As a testament to fortitude and an indictment of a city, it is absorbing. Mirthful, it is not.

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