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Sleep, Pale Sister

3.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,839 Ratings  ·  229 Reviews
Before the sweet delight of Chocolat, before the heady concoction that is Blackberry Wine, and before the tart pleasures of Five Quarters of the Orange, bestselling author Joanne Harris wrote Sleep, Pale Sister -- a gothic tourde-force that recalls the powerfully dark sensibility of her novel Holy Fools.

Originally published in 1994 -- and never before available in the Unit
Paperback, 396 pages
Published August 30th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1994)
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A Curl of Copper and Pearl by Kirsty Stonell WalkerSleep, Pale Sister by Joanne HarrisOphelia's Muse by Rita CameronThat Summer by Lauren WilligMortal Love by Elizabeth Hand
Pre-Raphaelites in Fiction
2nd out of 34 books — 17 voters
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy ChevalierThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeThe Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownThe Birth of Venus by Sarah DunantGirl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
Art & Artists in Fiction
109th out of 517 books — 823 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 11, 2008 Megan rated it liked it
This was actually the first of Joanne Harris' books that I've read, which strikes me as odd since I consider myself a fan. But I realized that that "fan" status is based solely on the viewing of the movie Chocolat (Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche) because the story was so wonderful. But that, of course, is absurd, because movies and their books are rarely more than representative of one another.

Having said that, I had high hopes that stayed with me through about the first half of this book, at whi
Lisa (scarlet21)
Jul 22, 2012 Lisa (scarlet21) rated it really liked it
One of Joanne's first and 'lost' books which entices, shocks and lulls you into it's gripping clutches.
Told in the different voices of the main characters we unravel the story of Henry Chester who has dark hidden secrets and his lovely, young wife Effie as they become seduced by dark shadowy characters and drugs into a world of blackmail and intrigue.
Madness plays a big part in this novel, whether it has its roots in drugs, temperament, grief, lust or superstition but we definately see a spiral
Bought this book because the title sounded intriguing, and there was a promise of some of the story being set in a brothel. The beginning was really good, but then it became more and more predictable, then mystical in a very cheap way, and then simply boring. At one point I started to wonder if and how anything was going to happen, because the story seemed to be so close to the end, and there were still over 100 pages remaining.
It tried very hard to be a VERY Gothic novel (the word "Gothic" was
Ana Mardoll
Jul 10, 2011 Ana Mardoll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ana-reviewed
Sleep, Pale Sister / 9780061843181

"Sleep, Pale Sister" grabs you from the first page and never lets go. As you are dragged through the lives of a pale victim and her three persecutors, you are shown by turns the motivations and inner thoughts of her tormentors, by the compelling switches between narrative viewpoint. This is one of the hardest tricks to pull off in novels, yet Harris manages to make it look effortless. Each tormentor addresses themselves to us, explains their motives and urges th
Free Fall
Oct 21, 2010 Free Fall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An elderly artist paints a young girl-child and falls in love with his impression of her, as a sweet creature who can only be totally obedient. A rake sees her, at which time she discovers passion in having her affair with him. Then, she starts developing an alter ego, which leads to tragic consequences.

None of the main characters were "nice," in any way. They were all deeply flawed, making me sympathize with them, pity them, and hate them.

The story jumps from one point of view to the next, with
Peter Chandler
Aug 30, 2010 Peter Chandler rated it liked it
A darkly gothic tale indeed, engaging and provocative in parts if certainly not without its flaws. Those flaws mainly comprising of two and, when the book gets one of those right it seems to go awry with the other. The constant switching of narrators between the four main characters can create a rather dislocating experience and make it difficult to really connect with any of them. Then, particularly with the unnecessarily drawn out ending, when it does linger on any one voice for long enough it ...more
May 12, 2010 Paula rated it it was amazing
'Sleep, Pale Sister' is one of Joanne Harris's earliest novels and due to popular demand was re~released and when you read it, you will find out why. Sleep, Pale Sister tells the story of Effie and the men in her life who set out to hurt in the cruelest manner possible. Effie finds a way to have her revenge in this dark novel. The chapters are told from the perspective of each separate characters which makes the story more interesting, you find out more about their pasts, the people they are.

Dec 07, 2015 Eleanor rated it liked it
A bit too drawn out but very 19th century Gothic!
May 04, 2012 Hannah rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance, gothic
Joanne Harris, you never fail to mesmerize me.

Just a little before reading this, I read Gentlemen and Players, and it instantly proved to me the beauty and genius of her writing. She has a true talent of capturing ones mind, twisting ones heart, and using her word-play to prove her skill and delicacy. I just realized how annoying and sappy that sounded...

Simply put, she has made her way into a position as one of my favorite writers, capable of the gothic and the whimsicle, and one of the most t
Annabel Joseph
Mar 12, 2011 Annabel Joseph rated it it was amazing
This book fit squarely into my super-love category. Mysterious, sensual, provocative, magical. On the cover a reviewer calls this book "a hauntingly evocative laudanum-dream of a novel" and I must say I agree completely. I have not read any of Ms. Harris's other books and I hesitate to, because this book seems to be a departure from her other type of work...and since I LOVE this book I imagine her other work might not work for me as well. But who knows? I might pick up Blackberry Wine.

But I dig
Jul 28, 2008 Cathy rated it really liked it
Have almost finished this book and it was the first book I read from this author. I found it to be a novel which draws you in completely, submerges you into its dreamlike and sometimes murky depths. It possesses a guiltridden, almost suffocating atmosphere interwoven with nightmarish sequences evoked by laudanum- and chloral hydrate abuse. The main male character reminded me very strongly of my childhood home (the guiltridden, suffocating part) and more especially of my misogynous father - Joann ...more
Feb 18, 2010 Kaelie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-the-shelf
I have read this book several times (I should probably just buy it for all the times I go to the library for it) and every time I notice something different. The first time I read it, I didn't really understand the storyline, because it requires you to pay close attention to details and everyone's history--not too difficult, in the long run.

The characters were just so different and interesting that I couldn't help but get sucked in by this book. Effie is so weak physically but she is spiritually
Lil Black Riding Hood
Mar 19, 2014 Lil Black Riding Hood rated it really liked it
I read this book when I was too young.
When I first read it, it disturbed me a little bit, I have to be honest, but the blame is on the librarian that told me that was a cool book for a 9 years old kid.
So basically, I didn't like it when I first finished it, but now,being 24 I have to say that's a really good book,the story is pretty intriguing and there is a nice revenge at the end.
Liked it now, not before :)
Nov 24, 2014 Kipahni rated it liked it
A very edgar allen poe read. dark and murky murderous tale with the typical suppressed and guilt ridden characters. perfect for a chilly evening and with a cocktail of brandy and a sidecar of chloral hydrate.
Aug 14, 2011 Bonnie rated it it was ok
I just finished reading two other Joanne Harris books, so I decided to read this one. To be brutally honest, the story was really bizarre and I'm not entirely sure I understand what happened.

What's the book about? Well, just take a middle aged artist who's also a pedophile, his slightly creepy, very thin, very young, drug addict wife, a brothel owner, one of its' patrons and a girl that died twenty years ago, add in a little witchcraft and a death scene befitting Romeo and Juliet and there you
Pamela Scott
I thought Sleep, Pale Sister was great. It reminded me of Harris’s debut novel, The Evil Seed but it was a better read. Harris offers everything you could hope for in a Victorian gothic delight including debauchery, murder, mystery and ghosts (of a sort). I thought Sleep, Pale Sister was delightful. Creepy title.

STRUCTURE: Harris uses multiple first person narrators in Sleep, Pale Sister. These include Harold, his wife Effie, Henry’s old nemesis and Effie’s lover Mose and Fanny, who runs the loc
Vera Maharani
Mar 17, 2016 Vera Maharani rated it liked it
Well, that was intensely chilling. Everything felt surreal. I don't know if it was in a good or bad way.

This is a very different experience from reading Harris' other books. Gone were all the lavish description of taste, replaced by blows of frozen breath. It is a ghost tale, in a way, though not exactly the one that you would tell while passing candlelight during a rainy midnight.
Sep 12, 2014 Noodles78 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this really confusing, not just the story, but how it made me feel. It was beautifully told, as if through a dream but I hated all the characters. I loathed Henry but detested Fanny more, I saw her as a conniving, manipulative, cold-hearted cow. Where Henry was clearly a confused controlling idiot, who had a love/hate relationship with women and didn't see them as anything but something that he can use or gain from. Just the kind of person you'd want to take home to meet the folks!!

Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it liked it
Shelves: read06
Before Chocolat and Five Quarters of an Orange, Harris published this book in the UK only. It is a recent US publication. It is written in a somewhat gothic style where this older painter falls in love with a girl he paints and marries her, but hates himself and her for not maintaining that image of purity... kind of disturbing actually.
Jul 13, 2009 Lizzie rated it liked it
Completely different from her other stuff. Compelling yet left a weird taste in the mouth as I couldnt put it down on the other hand not sure if I enjoyed it either. It was very dark.
Feb 21, 2016 Lydia rated it it was ok
This was not my favourite of Joanne Harris' books. I found it readable but the main character was not my favourite.

It's one of her earlier novels, and it's written in a sort of neo-gothic style, which I thought was interesting but I wasn't really sure I liked. It's a pretty angsty book and I remember it being pretty morbid.

I think the biggest problem I had with it is that the main character is male, and most of Joanne Harris' main characters are female. I found it a bit slow in places, and whi
Aug 10, 2007 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Even though I checked this out, my sister read it first, and couldn't stop raving about it. I found it original and dark, just like Harris' 'Chocolat'.
Nov 23, 2014 Kyrill rated it it was amazing
This book permeates at every level with what "The Gothic" truly was. If your expectations of the genre are informed by Vampire Diaries and the like, this will almost certainly be too much.

I found Blackberry Wine a bit naff but I have regained all respect for Harris having completed this. The unapologetic, poetic authenticity ringing through this book makes for an equally exhausting and invigorating reading experience. Vignettes become uncanny vines and offhand dialogues, haunting prophesies. Joa
Chiara Curiano'
Quando ho letto la sinossi di questo libro alle parole "Londra" e "vittoriana" ero già rapita. DOVEVO leggere questo libro.
Appena l'ho iniziato però ho avuto un momento di seria confusione. L'autrice infatti ha scelto di cambiare punto di vista alla storia ad ogni capitolo a seconda del personaggio, come se il libro fosse in realtà la raccolta delle pagine dei diari dei protagonisti che si intrecciano tra loro. All'inizio si fa fatica a capire chi stia raccontando e ad entrare negli ingranaggi
Jul 20, 2015 Ladywolf. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

è un romanzo che cercavo da tempo e devo dire che non mi ha deluso. All'inizio è un pò difficile da ingranare, ma poi la lettura si fa più fluida ed invitante. La Harris è riuscita a non scrivere un mattone emotivo grazie al suo stile scorrevole, ma se devo commentare questo libro con una parola, non ho nessuna difficiltà a trovarla.
Malato. Questo libro è orribilmente e splendidamente malato. Ma non in modo esplicito e crudo; è qualcosa di più profondo, qualcosa che tocca e macchia l'anima
Sleep, Pale Sister was one of Joanne Harris's first novels and was later republished after Harris achieved fame and lasting success with Chocolat . As I understand it, Sleep, Pale Sister was based loosely on the some of the personalities from the Pre-Raphaelite movement and Harris's lead characters frequently reference pivotal figures from this movement, such as Ruskin, Rossetti, Hunt and Millais. However, Harris's story is utterly invented, though it is easy to see where she may have taken ins ...more
Sheena Singh
I rarely write reviews for books, but I was surprised by the mild ratings for this book. Joanne Harris is a remarkable writer- I remember reading Chocolat, Holy Fools, and Blue Eyed Boy and thinking I had never read anything like it. I love the way she crafts her characters and I wait for the passages where she describes food and scents, because I swear you sense them. It's decadent and powerful writing and any reader will marvel at her skill. She isn't the kind of writer you give three stars to ...more
Jan 11, 2009 Faith rated it liked it
Shelves: 2005
Sleep, pale sister is Joanne Harris' second novel and written before her success. It's nothing like Harris later books. Totally different, even thou some of Harris "standard things" such as chocolate and gypsies and dark pasts appear. "A hauntingly evocative laudanum-dream of a novel" it stands on the cover. That's quite right. I would indeed call the novel mad. All the persons in it are mad, crazy. Haunted by their pasts. The novel is also very confusing since there are four different Is who te ...more
Sep 07, 2009 Trisha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 27, 2013 Kathy rated it liked it
So- this is tough book for me to rate. My husband recommended the book because he knows I love Joanne Harris, and reading her books has always been a wonderful journey for me. With this book I kept waiting for the moment when I would start to enjoy the journey, but that moment never came.

For me, Joanne Harris is first and foremost an incredible story teller with a magical gift of weaving words into interesting stories and wonderful characters. In this case, although she did a fine job telling he
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 23, 2015 11:51AM  
The ending 2 9 Sep 17, 2014 02:49AM  
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Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French author, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. She has also written a DR WHO novella for the BBC, has scripted guest episodes for the game ZOMBIES, RUN!, and is currently engaged in a number of musical theatre pr ...more
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“Pensate all'immagine che da una lastra fotografica si trasferisce sulla carta, diventando sempre più scura, da bianca all'oro più pallido, da ambra a seppia. Immaginate la luna mentre gira lentamente il profilo sottile fino a diventare piena, trascinando con sè le maree. Immaginate la crisalide quando schiude la bara dura della larva e mostra le ali al sole. L'insetto perfetto piange il bruco che un tempo è stato? E se ne ricorda?” 0 likes
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