The Hours Before Dawn
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The Hours Before Dawn

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  87 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Louise Henderson is trapped in a nightmare: the baby cries almost all night, every night, and the other children must be gotten off to school . . . Louise is so tired that she is afraid she is becoming psychotic; why does she have this feeling of apprehension, almost of terror? Is it connected with the lodger, a respectable school teacher? What is happening in the Henderso...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Chicago Review Press
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Dec 19, 2012 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery lovers, fans of Shirley Jackson

One of the pleasures of reading all those old books for My Big Fat Reading Project is discovering gems like this. The Hours Before Dawn won the Edgar Award in 1960.

Louise Henderson is the young mother of two children in 1950s London. Her infant does not sleep much, especially between the hours of 2 AM and dawn. He cries incessantly so that by the time he is just a few months old, Louise is so sleep deprived she moves through her daily housewifery duties in a daze.

Mr Henderson is a typical 50s hu...more
Helen Kitson
This is one of those books that I want to rave about and force everyone to read. It was Fremlin's first novel, and it's not difficult to see why it won an Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Crime Novel. It's a psychological thriller concerning a very ordinary housewife, Louise Henderson. She is the harassed mother of two active girls and a baby who cries all night. Her husband, Mark, is not a bad person, but he is clueless about the stress placed on Louise by the grinding drudgery of her days, and t...more
1958, Edgar-winning first novel, the suspenseful - and fearful! - home life of a new mother; Poor Louise is definitely a bit of a fluffy space-shot of a woman, but she's kind and loving and truly tries her hardest to make everything work well for her family. Whether or not she is mad, becomes mad, or only sees madness around her is slowly and carefully presented. Seems a mite overwrought now, but still effective - three-and-one-half stars

Mrs. Louise Henderson has a new baby, two active daughters...more
Protagonist has three children, including a new baby who won't sleep at night, and a traditional British husband who can't figure out why his shirts aren't being ironed properly. To help with expenses they take in a boarder and that's when things really start to go pear-shaped! Highly recommended for any woman who's ever had children; men may not appreciate it as much.
Any mother, young or old, can appreciate this humor of an exhausted women raising children. This book is no longer in print but if you can get your hands on a copy you will keep it!
An suspenseful little book that sneaks up on you--though it is a bit dated, but how much of that is because it takes place in circa 1950s England I am not sure ("pram" to me sounds circa 1880, but maybe they even still use the word in England). Also, I guess the Hendersons live in a row house? I truly did not figure that out til the neighbor began knocking on the wall.

What this book does best, though, is describe the total exhaustion of staying home with young children--the cleaning, the cooking...more
I have been looking for this title for 40 years! I read this book repeatedly as a child of 8, 9, 10, maybe up to 11 years old. It truly frightened me. Over the years I lost track of the book (it belonged to my mother) but the story has remained vivid. An exhausted mother who is beginning to lose her grip on reality and cannot be as grateful for her beautiful baby as she wants to be because of her exhaustion. A husband who is less than patient. And a helpful neighbor who may (or may not) be as ki...more
Yvonne Tibbs
My all time favorite! Nothing fancy just a good spooky little book about ordinary people.
Jul 13, 2008 Rosemary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rosemary by: Dean James
This is the mystery for young mothers who are so tired that they've begun to lose their grip on reality. The bookseller at Murder by the Book recommended it to me when my children were little--and what a perfect selection it was for one who wandered the house at night, rocking and soothing a crying baby, finally dozing, then waking up not know what room she was in.
A superb and beautifully written tale of suspense that won Fremlin an Edgar Award - not bad for a first novel. The plot is not that complex, but the mystery excels at presenting an exceedingly believable protagonist in housewife Louise Henderson, and the mid- century setting (the novel is from 1958) lends the proceedings a vintage, yet realistic appeal.
Celia Fremlin is far too little known and appreciated. She writes with acute psychological insight and can generate the scariest stories from the most ordinary situations. This is her first book, an award winner. It's not one of her truly scary ones, but an excellent read that kept me turning the pages. Do yourself a favor and seek out her books.
Tricia Sutton
Truly a gifted author. I'm adding her to my read-everything-she's-ever-written list. Since I accomplished such on my Ian McEwan list, I was feeling empty. Ms Fremlin is the female equivalent, and my only complaint is her bio states she was born in 1914. This means that once I'm done with my list I, sadly, shouldn't expect any more.
This won the Edgar Award for best novel back in 1960 and features a mother trying to cope with a newborn who will not stop crying, two older girls, a typical English husband of the 1950s who shows his concern about the household by showing up unannounced for lunch and expecting a hot meal with meat, and new boarder in the attic.
Really this should be 3.5 stars. I couldn't finish the book, not because it wasn't well written and interesting but because it was too stressful! The subject matter was kind of close to home. I can see why it's been mentioned as a precursor to Gone Girl.
Laurie Rapp
There were times where I felt like I was reading an Alfred Hitchcock manuscript. Not that I have ever read an Alfred Hitchcock manuscript, but if I had....
The Wee Hen
Nice little psychological suspense story about a new mother who is rather overwhelmed and becomes aware of some strange doings in her neighborhood.
Like a 1950s housewife version of Gaslight, with some great passages about the effects of anxiety on one's sense of self.
Great 1950's domestic thriller hung on a young mother's exhaustion. Shirley Jackson-esque.
Aug 06, 2009 Julie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century
More of a psychological thriller than a "regular" mystery. Gets better at the end.
"...failure to achieve dishonesty often seems the next best thing to honesty itself."
Nicole Ludovici
Wow. I know how she felt - the tedious drudgery of everyday work.
Sufficiently suspenseful and keeps you guessings.
Antje Schrupp
Ein Plus Hausfrauen-Thriller von 1958. (11-12)
Cult classic. Too old fashioned for me.
Typical british mystery.....
Stephanie marked it as to-read
Aug 17, 2014
Jonathan Schuster
Jonathan Schuster marked it as to-read
Aug 11, 2014
Arghya Iyengar
Arghya Iyengar marked it as to-read
Aug 05, 2014
Peter Strupp
Peter Strupp marked it as to-read
Aug 05, 2014
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