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10 thoughts on “The House of Sleep

  1. Boyd Boyd says:

    Jonathan Coe, as he has demonstrated many times, is an agile and humane writer, and this book is perfectly readable and fitfully affecting. However, it's not the complex masterpiece it's touted as being. What has been described as an intricate structure is, in reality, a protracted series of coincidences that carries on right to the end. The central plot twist can be seen coming a mile away, and the four or five main characters' lives intersect in so many ways that you'd think they were the only people on earth. It's like one of those nineteenth-century operas in which someone puts on a mask or switches clothing, and suddenly nobody recognizes him anymore. But at least in opera, there's the music.

    Coe handles the alternating-chapter format gracefully, and I like the conceit of the sleep clinic: it's the reason I got hold of the book to begin with. The execution doesn't live up to the idea, though, and even a mad scientist can't perk it up--rather the reverse. I had high hopes for the missing film masterpiece plot thread, too; but Coe, having brought it up, doesn't do much with it.

    Some missed opportunities here, I'd say.

  2. Chris_P Chris_P says:

    The House of Sleep provides a unique reading experience, that's for sure. Its very structure resembles sleep, as the chapters are named after the stages one goes through when sleeping. Hence, reading it, you actually feel like sinking into a restless sleep full of dreams.

    Coe has made a hell of a job with the characters. Each has their own path to follow, their own issues, fears and complications. Yet they affect each other's lives in extraordinary manners. One thing they all have in common though, is that none of them is entirely happy with who they are. The narrative is a bit tricky and you have to be really thorough in order not to miss important plot points. That's something I generally like in books and films, that is when the creators treat their audience as thinking, intelligent people. However, I'd be lying if I said that it left me with no questions. I'm convinced that it was Coe's intention to leave some things up to the reader's judgement. Like how come the very building that housed the protagonists' school years was turned into the sleep disorder clinic that would bring them back together? And it's not just that. The coincidences are just too many, while some of them give the story a metaphysical feeling. Like the one with the photo and Robert's dream (those of you who've read it know what I'm talking about). Or some recurring events that shouldn't be... recurring. But wait... that reminds me of something...

  3. El El says:

    Sometimes I think there must be something broken inside my head, for often as I read books which are labeled funny, hilarious, silly I find myself rarely cracking a smile during my reading. In fact, I am often so distracted by the idea that it is labeled as such that I am downright disturbed that anyone would find humor in the work. This is one of those books.

    Maybe to some sleep disorders are funny, maybe narcoleptics say and do funny things (losing ones job due to narcolepsy must be the hilarious bit the San Francisco Chronicle was referring to on the front cover), and maybe I just don't know any different. Personally I don't find any sort of disability quite so witty.

    Anyway, the story is about four friends from college: Sarah, the narcoleptic; Gregory, the obsessive and freaky boyfriend who wants to be a sleep doctor; Terry, the obsessive and not-so-freaky film buff; and Robert, the obsessive and probably highly confused fan of Sarah's. Other characters come and go, the plot alternates chapter by chapter between the past and the present (whatever, the nineties-present, as the book was published in '97), there are all sorts of heavy connections between all of the characters from beginning to end which makes for a fairly interesting read to see how it all comes around in a giant circle.

    If O. Henry wrote darker, more ironic stories, this might qualify. Except it's not O. Henry so therefore immediately isn't deemed to be as good. I bounced back and forth while reading - one page made me think it rated as a 3-star book, the next page made me want to rate it as a 2-star book. I think the first half wasn't quite as good as the second part, but really my biggest complaint are the characters - I just couldn't care about them all the time. I wanted to, but some of them are so stupid (Gregory) or so pointless (Terry), and really the only semi-decent parts really involved Sarah and her lesbian phase with Veronica. I just wanted more.

    But I will say the sleep clinic freaked me the hell out.

  4. Ana Ana says:

    Oh my freakin' duck! This book is how I've imagined LSD on bread would be like. This book is life (now I sound like a tumblrer), everything and the reason why I love reading! I live for this kind of books! Something like this of such majesty, fervour, ingenious depth has to be felt and steered perpetually from end to end of oneself. As those being said, Jonathan Coe is a master of mind tricks enclosed by words and brought to surface by the body's trembling. Left with tears flooding my eyes on this one, my synapses nipped, nip which ran through my eyes and my heart (I do feel this whenever I undergo ardent emotions of any kind). Oh yes, I believe the last one stopped for few seconds.
    I think we all got the idea that this book is about sleep, also all the diseases that sleep denotes. What we, ok... let's say I... didn't know was that this book can open your eyes (bad joke) as far as this is not mostly about sleep (even though I find it quite educative), but our inner self instead. To start with, the book is split into even (the story is taking place in the last two weeks of June, 1996) and uneven chapters (1983-1984). This is the first line in the whole scheme: it makes the far-fetched seem closer, while the whole book is consequently a fulfilment we had all dreamt of and this is to perceive what is not right in some decisions we make and how they tug at our heartstrings in the future when we least expect them to reappear. In 1996, Ashdown turned into a clinic for insomniacs, while in 1983-1984 all the characters gave all out to make a living. From one chapter to another a world hatches right in front of our eyes, dividing the novel into 'the world that is' and 'the world that isn't yet'. The knack that stands at the bottom of the 'smoke and mirrors' are the paths followed, everything knots when no one knows. For instance, to have the same language as the writer (phases of sleep), there was a 'phase' in which they were all working-unconsciously at their own future, during the time that with the use of the chapters' interlacing as a reader you have the eerie feeling that everything was fated (of course there are more and more clues on the road). This is an unnormal state of predictability that I've never read before in a book with such realism, a story that is not on the cards for no one BUT from a source beyond everything (I like to call this fiction), that's why it sends chills on one's spine (becomes embroidered for the sake of harmony). For example: imagine there are many people in a room at a party, they do not want to have anything to do one with another KNOWING unconsciously they will be back in the same place where someday they'll have to talk AND they will for sure. The intensity of this game with the aim of intergrowth is outlandish and bloodcurdling after some time due to the characters. Everything was so carefully wrapped in the cloth of 'dream' that I can barely remember the backgrounds that were not images absorbed from the relation dream-reality. That's because each thing is like a mist, nothing seems touchable since all is absurd, while all revolve around all and all in the void.
    Second of all, Jonathan Coe gives birth to one of the most topping, deliciously blown up out of all proportion characters to take everything in. The idea of sleep is transmuted into 'ego', whereas the 'self' is distinctive and it floats above each character because yes, this book is a web of fortunes refined by its own mains no matter how far. On this very unique grounding the characters are searching for one another, that's why many of them dream and sense the fate in their reverie as this is what they really want, others reveal how meaningful verity is and others are the 'linkers' between the two worlds. It is like a drawing in which everyone has his/her own place and purpose. I have always been fascinated concerning my own dreams, that's why I had quitted making my own before the real ones. On account of this I could get with all haste to what I wanted, the one that I am not what I want. I don't want to spread spoilers so I won't give any hint of who is who and why. This is the gimmick. All of them try to save what they have including eachother by entering 'life as it is', but the vacillation that delusions give baffle them from following their hearts and own conceptions, combined with their own personality qualm and fear of surroundings. Ashdown can be owning to this change what I like to call 'Land of Oblivion'.
    Not like it wasn't menacing enough, there are some pieces of twists, love, tragedy, self-hatred... so all can recede in what we can all have... vision. One thing is for sure I will never forget this book. Hopefully I will be able to put all that I've learned in 'actions'. We all want something, but dreaming is not the smartest escape. This book is an escape.

  5. Aaron Aaron says:

    There are four major characters in this novel, all of whom knew each other in college. There's Sarah, who suffers from narcolepsy and often cannot discern the events she sees in her dreams from reality. There's Robert, who might be the one affected most by Sarah's disorder (but I can't tell you why without spoiling an awesome twist). There's Terry, film critic and insomniac who claims to not have slept in almost ten years. And Gregory, a world-renowned sleep therapist who believes that sleep is a life-shortening disease that should be eradicated.

    Jonathan Coe is a writer who remains focused on the details. Several things in this narrative seem unimportant until the end (a scar, an idle conversation). The novel itself is an amalgamation of genre; it's a bit chilling (one of Gregory's experiments is just downright horrifying), more than a little funny (the bit about the misnumbered footnotes makes reading the whole book worthwhile), and effectively layered. However, there's a couple of things that I don't think are explained very well and I find a plot so centered on mere coincidence to be a little problematic. Ultimately, though I enjoyed this novel. It was thought-provoking and handles many different themes effectively. Of these themes, the difference between love and obsession is one of the better drawn out.

    Highly recommended. I'll be continuing the search for more Jonathan Coe.

  6. Alma Alma says:

    “There’s a fine line between forgetting an event, and suppressing the memory of it.”

  7. Ieva Andriuskeviciene Ieva Andriuskeviciene says:

    “ ‘A disease, Terry - the most widespread and life-curtailing disease of all! Forget cancer, forget multiple sclerosis, forget AIDS. If you spend eight hours a day in bed, then sleep is shortening your life by a third! That’s equivalent of dying at the age of fifty- and it’s happening to all of us. This is more than just a disease: this is a plague! And none of us is immune, you realise.”

    Very clever and twisted book about group of people who met in their student years in the eighties and now in after a decade they are drawn back together by problems with their sleep.
    Terry is insomniac, obsessed with old movies (there is a lot about them!)
    Sarah is narcoleptic and can’t separate what is real life and what is a dream. Robert is just lost and all his problems started because of Sarah. And there is a doctor who manages the clinic and thinks that we are wasting our life by sleeping.
    All storyline is changing and unpredictable. I don’t think I have ever read anything like this. Very good humour, some weird sex and an interesting study of sleep. Structure is amazing. I am not sure about the end as it left me hanging. Overall, more experience than just a read
    Perfect book to read during your sleepless nights!

  8. Kirsten Kirsten says:

    I wanted to really like this novel, because I felt like it did a lot of things very well. The story was intriguing, the characters had the potential to be very interesting, all of that good stuff. But for some reason, while I was entertained by the story, I didn't really develop any kind of emotional attachment to the characters. I never felt like I really knew them, and it felt kind of like all the characters were playing pieces that the author moved around at will. I'm curious if other people have read this novel, and what your reaction to it was?

  9. Vi Vi says:

    I found this book on a tram as part of the BookTraveller's organisation whereby people purposely leave books behind for strangers to read. And so I think I must have done something right in my life to have had the chance encounter with a Jonathan Coe book. This was the first time I'd heard of Jonathan Coe and this was to become one of my favourite books of all time. In my view, this book is flawless. The writing, the humour, the sorrows, the prose- I cried and laughed and long after I had finished the book, I read it again just so I could visit the characters again- such was the effect it had on me. If I had to recommend a book, it would be Coe's House of Sleep.

  10. Karen Karen says:

    Two months ago, I picked up a copy of The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim off of a library shelf, and I have become hooked on Jonathan Coe. I think he is brilliant - his writing is immensely creative and funny, his characters are compelling and quirky, his plots are extremely well-crafted, and he always keeps you guessing. He takes risks in the structure of his novels, and while I usually prefer sequential narrative, I think he does an amazing job of telling a story in a non-linear way. It is also SO refreshing to have GLBT themes and characters so well integrated into mainstream literature.

    As someone with chronic sleep issues, I loved this book. As someone who enjoys satire with a heart, I loved this book. Coe's comic timing is impeccable; the humor leaps out at you when you're not expecting it (eg: Do you like tortellini? he asked. Kingsley stared at him defiantly. Sure I do, he said. Especially the early, black and white ones.)

    It is rare that I read books with complex plots where it feels that the author is in complete control of the story, the characters, and the plot; Jonathan Coe is a master. I don't mind his reliance on coincidences; they are not necessarily realistic, but are in the realm of reality, and seem to reflect the interconnectedness of human lives. Reading this book was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; even though the future is left open-ended, it is immensely satisfying to look at the whole picture in the end.

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The House of Sleep ➾ The House of Sleep Download ➹ Author Jonathan Coe – Winner of the Writers' Guild Best Fiction Award in England and the Prix Médicis in France

Like a surreal and highly caffeinated version of The Big Chill, Jonathan Coe's new novel follows fou Winner of the Writers' Guild Best Fiction Award in England and the Prix Médicis in FranceLike a surreal The House Epub / and highly caffeinated version of The Big Chill, Jonathan Coe's new novel follows four students who knew each other in college in the eighties Sarah is a narcoleptic who has dreams so vivid she mistakes them for real events Robert has his life changed forever by the misunderstandings that arise from her condition Terry spends his wakeful nights fueling his obsession with movies And an increasingly unstable doctor, Gregory, sees sleep as a lifeshortening disease which he must eradicateBut after ten years of fretful slumber and dreams gone bad, the four reunite in their college town to confront their disorders In a Gothic cliffside manor being used as a clinic for sleep disorders, they discover that neither love, nor lunacy, nor obsession ever rests.