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The Hours Before Dawn

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  132 Ratings  ·  32 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 (first published January 1st 1959)
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Dec 19, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  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
Shelley Day Sclater
Solid domestic noir! A story of a young overburdened mother, with a domestically useless husband, trying her best to multitask 1950s style, and presiding over nothing short of pandemonium in her home and in her head. Is she losing the plot? Or are circumstances conspiring to make it look like that? Enter the mysterious spinster lodger who gets more and more sinister by the page. I can't tell you any more than that without introducing spoilers, but suffice to say it's a great read, though the boo ...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
Ant Harrison
Jul 21, 2015 Ant Harrison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
So glad that I came across this series of e-books by Faber of Celia Fremlin's crime novels. The Hours Before Dawn tells the story of young mother Louise, a middle class housewife living in Suburbia in the 1950s.

Louise is exhausted and stressed from the constant demands of childcare (including her 'adult child', in the shape of her distracted husband, Mark) when the family's new lodger Vera Brandon arrives. The quiet schoolteacher's presence soon has an unsettling effect on the family and we see
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.
Jul 13, 2008 Rosemary rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 03, 2014 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 26, 2015 Kayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever noticed how, in zombie movies, the real enemy is always the humans? It's always so frustrating, because you think, jeez, how easy it would be if only these people didn't get in your way.

Similarly, in this book the villain is not the villain: it's secretly a book about how terrible husbands were in the 1950s. I pretty much expected that the protagonist would be disbelieved by her husband--that's standard. But also, while the protagonist falls apart under stress and sleep deprivatio
Sep 30, 2007 Noreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Yvonne Tibbs
Apr 08, 2014 Yvonne Tibbs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My all time favorite! Nothing fancy just a good spooky little book about ordinary people.
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
Mar 04, 2011 Ellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction
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
Feb 01, 2015 Pipi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great novel and beautifully written. Also lots of lovely turns of phrase and insights that had me chuckling throughout.
Aug 28, 2015 Stephanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, 1950-s
Not really a crime book, more psychological thriller, but not really a thriller, hard to say specifically what kind of book. Deals mainly with a new mother's sleep deprivation, and details all the 'wifework' involved in looking after a family in the 50's, though I don't think much has changed in the past 60 years since this was written, a good sociological study of family life. A quick read.
Esther Taylor
Mar 16, 2015 Esther Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read though one where I kept having to remind myself of the era in which it was written (feminists who get themselves all worked up over past gender roles mightn't take this book too well...)
Jan 16, 2011 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 23, 2013 Tricia Sutton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Steph (loves water)
Apr 03, 2016 Steph (loves water) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Not really my thing; I can't really say I liked it but the book redeemed itself at the end. I thought if Louise took the Hooper baby one more time when she didn't want to, I was going to scream. But it all worked out in the end. A creepy little psychological thriller.
Sep 09, 2013 Gwen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2010 Laurie Rapp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 01, 2012 The Wee Hen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice little psychological suspense story about a new mother who is rather overwhelmed and becomes aware of some strange doings in her neighborhood.
Oct 09, 2013 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a 1950s housewife version of Gaslight, with some great passages about the effects of anxiety on one's sense of self.
Apr 11, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1940s1950s
Great 1950's domestic thriller hung on a young mother's exhaustion. Shirley Jackson-esque.
Aug 06, 2009 Julie rated it liked it  ·  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."
Wow. I know how she felt - the tedious drudgery of everyday work.
Aug 05, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sufficiently suspenseful and keeps you guessings.
Antje Schrupp
Apr 21, 2013 Antje Schrupp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ein Plus Hausfrauen-Thriller von 1958. (11-12)
Cult classic. Too old fashioned for me.
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