This could totally be a blog post about how insanely tired I feel right now, and how between staying up late writing night after night, and babies spitting their dummies out (literally) at 4.45am, and the “summer” (lol) holidays, I am just wrecked and would love nothing more to check myself into a house that existed solely for it’s residents to simply sleep their days and nights away until refreshed.
But…it’s not. At all. This is my (admittedly rather belated) review of June’s Re-Read, which was, as the title suggests- The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe.
This is a book that I got in a swap a very long time ago, and it came with bite marks in the cover, yellowed pages, and absolutely no pre-conceived notions whatsoever. I had no idea what it was about, which I am increasingly finding is my favourite way to approach a new book, as the more hype that surrounds something, the more pressure there is to enjoy it, and the more disappointing it is when you (or rather I) don’t.
The House of Sleep is literary fiction, but unlike a lot of books that fall under that umbrella, I would say it’s a pretty easy read, which is obviously a totally subjective observation but I just mean that I didn’t feel like I had to be reading it in a certain frame of mind in a quiet room to really grasp the language or appreciate the story.
The story centers around a group of main characters- Sarah, Robert, Terry and Gregory, but more specifically around a house- Ashdown, which for some of the book is owned by the university and houses students, and later is being used as a private sleep clinic. Sleep, and sleep disorders obviously feature heavily (the clue being in the title and all) as does sexuality and gender. I’m hesitant to give away too many spoilers but I will say that one of the characters is transgender, and that a decade ago when I first read the book (and almost a decade before that, when it was first published) that was probably quite a big deal. It certainly was for me reading it anyway, as it was doubtless the first time I’d encountered a main character that wasn’t cisgender- long before I even knew what cisgender meant.
Coming back to it again a couple of months ago I wondered if the knowledge and awareness I’d gained since first reading it would give me a different perspective, especially regarding the sexuality and gender aspects of the story, and to a certain extent it did. I wondered about some of the decisions the author made and found myself engaging with the story in a different- more critical- way, but overall I still enjoyed the way it was written, and the weaving together of the different personal stories across place and time. For me this isn’t one of those books that you stay up all night to finish, but one that you pick up and put down each night before bed for a week or so, and rather than being blown-away by it, it leaves you with a lingering sense of something.
July’s re-read should have been The Spider Truces but I got sidetracked (again). The good news being that I have read some other really fantastic books instead, the bad news being that it means I am getting a bit behind and should probably try to exert more self-control (Ha! Hahahahaha).
I’ll let you know how that goes 😉