Midnight is a study in the courage of three women at the hour of reckoning—Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Joan of Arc
Midnight and Jane Austen:
By the time she and her sister pulled up to Manydown that winter day in 1802, she was nearly twenty-seven, the age at which Anne Elliot finally married for love in Persuasion, and poor Charlotte Lucas resigned herself to Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. But outside of the great Jane Austen novels, twenty-seven was beyond the pale. Women didn't marry at twenty-seven, they died at twenty-seven, of serial childbirth for the most part. Since they married at seventeen.
Mary Shelley on the Beach
If only she'd slipped out of her father's door alone—but she didn't, she slipped out with Jane Clairmont, who soon changed her name to the more romantic "Claire." As if a change of name could change a fate, or a fateful slash through her own life. Though that morning she had no sense of what it boded, to have her fifteen-year-old, black-haired, black-eyed anti-double running by her side down the still-dark street to the corner, where Shelley was waiting with his carriage.
Joan of Arc in Chains
Joan of Arc scanned the sky, and the crowded churchyard. No miracle in sight, no great victory. As opposed to the hooded man, who was right there before her. It wasn't supposed to end like this today. She suddenly knew it.
"I submit." It was simple, once she'd said it. Louder now: "I submit!" She smiled for the first time in the year since she'd been captured. Suddenly everything fell into place. She wasn't going to burn. "I submit."
Critics re Midnight:
Like Hilary Mantel, Shorr inhabits the minds of her characters with such conviction that there are moments when the line between fact and fiction seems to disappear.
—Miranda Seymour, Times Literary Supplement, London, May 3, 2019
Shorr’s Midnight is a moving read about how three famous women in the past lived through their own difficult times. Like other such collections of women’s lives, it promises inspiration, and the emphasis on three very different moments of crisis seems well-suited for our own challenging moment and for any reader going through her own personal midnight.
—Anne Fernald, Wellesley Magazine, Spring, 2019
“[A] gripping, imaginative foray into the lives of Austen, Shelley, and Joan of Arc, as each faced a life-altering event. This book gives us the compelling stories we’ve always wished they’d recorded: Austen accepting an eligible man’s marriage proposal, only to withdraw it; Shelley writing Frankenstein as her life careened out of control; and Joan of Arc’s thoughts, in and beyond the flames.”
—Devoney Looser, Foundation Professor of English at Arizona State University and author of The Making of Jane Austen
"Victoria Shorr’s Midnight is a flamboyant display of empathy and wit. Written with a novelist’s narrative flair and a biographer’s factual command, Shorr recreates and reassesses the lives of Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Joan of Art at the hour of their reckoning. A deft, vivid, first-rate read which delights and informs on every bold page.”
—John Lahr, Tennessee Williams, Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh etc.
“Victoria Shorr combines sturdy biographical research with flights of imagination. The author’s voyages into the minds of the women are impressive. A fresh and instructive investigation into three iconic lives and minds.”
—Kirkus.com, 15 December, 2018
"Like Shorr's debut fiction, Backlands, this book too is written in pacey, novelistic prose...animating the women's lives with easy intimacy. Shorr is remarkably good at making these oft-told stories sound as exciting as lived experience."
Laura Feigel, "Remarkable Women," NYT Book Review, Mar. 17, 2019