Books · Novels · Reviews

The House Of Sleep

By Jonathan Coe

What connects journalist, a film journalist, a doctor and a lovelorn candidate for gender reassignment? In the eighties they are all students and living in the same student accommodation. For a while, two of them form a relationship and share a room together. At the end of their time as students,  they go their separate ways but fate had a way of intertwining their lives years later.

Sleep, of all things, is the common factor that brought the lives of these four people to tangle again a decade later? Their once student accommodation has been transformed into s sleep research facility, run by a an obsessive doctor.  Dr Dudden believes that one third of our lives is wasted in sleep, when we could be doing something useful or enjoyable.

Sarah is narcoleptic, prone to dropping off to sleep at odd moments; not good for a teacher trying to control a class of children. Unfortunately she has another, related, problem. Sara is often unable to know the difference between what has actually happened in the waking world around her and what she has dreamed, which gets her into various situations.

Terry looks set to become one of Dr Dudden’s most promising subjects. He’s an insomniac who claims to have had virtually no sleep in years, which unfortunately seems to feed the doctor’s obsession with wakefulness.

Robert arrives back at Dr Dudden’s house of sleep by nothing more than a misunderstanding ten years earlier in his student days.

I had a little trouble occasionally keeping track with the jumps in time between student days and a decade later before the former friends return to the sleep clinic. So long as you can keep track of this in your mind as you read, you will have little trouble following the narrative.

It’s rare for me to laugh out loud at any book. I did a few times with The House Of Sleep, much to the annoyance of my partner as, unfortunately, I was reading it in bed so waking her with the sound and shaking of the bed as I chuckled.



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