Sarah is narcoleptic. Her inability to distinguish between dreams and waking reality gives rise to many misunderstandings. For Terry, a disillusioned film critic, sleep is merely a memory. For Dr Dunstan, sleep is nothing less than a global disease. Constructed to reflect the different stages of sleep, "The House of Sleep" is a brilliant and original comedy about the powers we acquire - and those we relinqish - when we fall asleep, and when we fall in love. "It must be one of the best books of the year" - Malcolm Bradbury in "The Times."
The House of Sleep is an intricate cat's cradle of a novel, full of both sly satire and oblique meditations on the interstices of love, sleep, memory, and dreams. The setting is Ashdown, a wind-swept old house by the sea that once provided university housing and now is home to a clinic for sleep disorders. During the early 1980s, a group of students meet here, united by little other than a curious preoccupation with sleep. They include Sarah, a narcoleptic who has trouble distinguishing her intensely vivid dreams from reality; her first boyfriend, the fussy egomaniac Gregory, who gets his kicks from pressing his fingers on Sarah's closed eyes; Terry, a film buff who sleeps at least 14 hours a day, dreaming blissful dreams he can never quite remember; and the sensitive Robert, who loves Sarah enough to do anything at all in order to have her. By a series of startling coincidences, the four are drawn back to Ashdown 12 years later, setting into motion a plot so carefully contrived it makes most thrillers look spare and impressionistic. Like a dream, The House of Sleep resonates with repeated images, phrases, even passages; here they serve as narrative glue for a complicated story that moves backward and forward in time and in and out of different points of view. The result is sometimes puzzling, always absorbing, and often very funny indeed.
A dream of a novel."
--Erica Wagner, The Times (London)
Following The Winshaw Legacy--Coe's ecstatically reviewed American debut, winner of the John Lewellyn Rhys Prize in England and France's coveted Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger--comes this beguiling, eccentric entertainment.
Ashdown--a vast clifftop manor on the English coast--was once a university residence, where a group of students met briefly before going their separate ways. Twelve years later, it has been transformed into a clinic for sleep disorders, and a series of strange coincidences and ostensible synchronicities draws the same group of people together once again, each of them in different ways plagued by sleep.
Sarah is narcoleptic, and her inability to distinguish between dreams and waking reality gives rise to a great many misunderstandings--one of which is to change Robert's life forever, as he persists for years (and then some) in his attempt to win her love. For Terry, a disillusioned film critic whose career has been derailed by Sarah's affliction, sleep is merely a memory, for his insomnia is complete and he can only yearn for the tantalizing dreams he enjoyed in youth. And for the increasingly deranged Dr. Dudden, who has made the subject the focus of his medical practice, sleep is nothing less than a global disease.
With panache worthy of Nabokov, and with the heart to match his sophistication, Jonathan Coe has written a breathtakingly original comedy about the powers we acquire--and those we relinquish--when we fall asleep, or fall in love.
"This is a remarkable book, most impressive for its subtle narrative patterning, like a dapple of light and shade, allowing us to indulge the illusion of understanding its characters, until, all at once, the darkness, the isolation and the mystery return. Perhaps most strange of all, for a novel about insomniacs, The House of Sleep is a wonderful bedtime read."
--David Nokes, Sunday Times
From the Inside Flap