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The House of Sleep Hardcover – February 17, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 88 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

From Publishers Weekly

A gloomy Victorian manor called Ashdown, perched on a precipice overlooking the English coastline like the anthropomorphic castle of a 19th-century gothic romance, is the setting for much of this engrossing and wildly inventive tale of demented scientists, obsessive desire, youthful idealism and anomie. As in Coe's previous book, The Winshaw Legacy, such gothic trappings serve a thoroughly contemporary story that traces the lives of several students who lived at Ashdown in the early 1980s. Then a university dormitory, it has since become a clinic for the study of sleep disorders run by the sadistic Dr. Gregory Dudden, a former student there. In chapters named in descending order after the clinical stages of sleep, the novel follows the strange coincidences of the summer of 1994 that re-acquaint Dudden with people from his past: Sarah, his narcoleptic college girlfriend, now a disillusioned schoolteacher living in London; Terry, an insomniac film critic under Dudden's supervision; and Terry's college friend Robert, whose long unrequited fixation with Sarah and confusion over his own gender led to a post-graduation vanishing act that is only explained in the very last chapter. In a series of plot twists and reversals as intricate as the electrodes that festoon the heads of the patients at Ashdown, the novel also manages to describe a university class polarized by the politics of the 1980s; the life and work of a fictitious Italian film director; an eponymous novel-within-a-novel about "midnight kidnappings" and a "notorious criminal called the Owl"; a reminiscence of the British film industry whose footnotes are hilariously askew; and an essay interpreting the events in Sarah's life from the perspective of her Lacanian psychiatrist. Balancing self-knowing references to semiotics and psychoanalysis with elegant plot symmetries, Coe proves himself as adept an architect of sparkling, highly caffeinated fictional conceits as he is a satirist of the ambiguities of identity and the afflictions of the sleep-deprived.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product details

  • Publisher : Knopf; 1st American ed edition (February 17, 1998)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 331 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0375400931
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0375400933
  • Item Weight : 1.25 pounds
  • Dimensions : 6 x 1 x 8.75 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 88 ratings

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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
88 global ratings
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