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Night Waking

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  874 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently-absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Ann ...more
Paperback, 378 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Granta Books (UK)
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Laura Spira He clearly disliked the family. It was later revealed that Giles had assaulted his brother. He refused to use Anna's professional name although she…moreHe clearly disliked the family. It was later revealed that Giles had assaulted his brother. He refused to use Anna's professional name although she corrected him several times and he also refused to tell her anything about the dating of the body.(less)

Community Reviews

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helen the bookowl
4.5/5 stars.
This book was really really good! It gives you a unique insight into what it's like to be a mother, and while I've read several novels on family life and the stress that can come with it, I've never read anything like this.
"Night Waking" deals with Anna, her rather absent and non-understanding husband Giles as well as her two small children. They live quite isolated on a Scottish island for the holidays, and from the very first pages it is no secret that Anna finds the job of being
Feb 27, 2017 Terry rated it really liked it
This novel was interesting and well written. I identified with the protagonist regarding the non stop responsibilities of motherhood and earning a living. Too tired from lack of sleep to write more, but I would definitely read another book by this author.
What the heck is Anna, the protagonist, supposed to be writing about? I can't make heads or tails out of her writing excerpts.
She definitely needs some sleep.
I keep getting the impression that even though her toddler is excessively demand
Mar 03, 2017 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure that I was going to like this book after I read the first few chapters. Anna didn't seem like a very attractive character & the alternating chapters of late Victorian letters broke up the flow of the story. However, by the middle of the book I was drawn into life on the Hebridean island of Colsay (both past & present). By the end, the format of the book made sense and the Victorian letters, Anna's current life and her research into the death of a young girl during WW2 forme ...more
Jun 23, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
Set on a tiny Hebridean island, Night Waking is the story of Anna, academic and mother of two small children, who is working on a book about childhood in the eighteenth century while her own children are driving her to distraction and her aristocratic husband studies puffins, oblivious to the demands of domestic life. The already precarious balance of their lives is disturbed still further by the discovery of the bones of an infant buried in their garden.

Running parallel to the main narrative is
Jun 13, 2011 Kirsty rated it it was amazing
I finished this book weeks ago, and I'm still thinking about it. The characters are believable (uncomfortably so if you're from a middle-class background, and see reflections in the anxieties over recycling and constant guilt over doing The Right Thing), and the setting is beautifully drawn. It's no surprise that Moss lectures in the use of place in story, because the isolated Scottish island is so vivid it acts as a character. I don't think I'd actually want to meet any of these characters, but ...more
Dec 03, 2012 Wendy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-hunter
It's hard to say quite how much I loved this book and although I can understand why some reviewers are less enthusiastic, for me it was just ideal! Initially it was because it brought back so many memories about sleep deprived nights but then because I began to care so much about all the characters and loved the way they developed. I really began to feel as though I was seeing through Anna's eyes and could almost see and feel the beauty, isolation and peace of life on Colsay, but understand the ...more
Sep 09, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Anna is a mother on a remote island struggling to manage her marriage, workload and two young children when she discovers a baby’s skeleton in her garden. She proceeds to neglect all domestic duties in favour of investigating the child’s untimely demise. The narrative is bleak and repetitive, and the subplot of the island’s historically high infant mortality rate is mediocre. It could be said to effectively mirror the trials of daily life with children and an unsupportive husband. But whether an ...more
May 25, 2011 Tvtowerbaby rated it really liked it
A marvellous, humorous portrait of what it's really like to be a working mum. I wanted to shout at Anna that she is a wonderful mum, loving her two boys and doing a much better job than she believes. Yes, it's a book about infant mortality on a remote Hebridean island, a book about the sins of the fathers, a book about feminism but most of all it's about the funny, difficult, sweet details of family life.
Jul 10, 2012 June rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
I bought this as a 99p Amazon deal of the day, knowing nothing about it..and was immediately hooked into this story of a pair of academics and their two children living on a remote scottish island. Dad is an ecologist studying birds, while signally failing to notice the distress of his equally intelligent wife, an oxford research Fellow , as she struggles to work on her book while managing the children without much help from him. I really identified with the wife, Anna..I once had dreams of 'the ...more
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
Imagine Peter May and Rachel Cusk wrote a book together, with a helping hand from Sarah Waters. Night Waking is that book. It's got baby skeletons dug up on Hebridean Islands; a two year old who refuses to sleep through the night; a half crazed mother wielding organic baby snacks while her husband counts puffins; and letters from a lonely 19th century nurse cut off from her family during a dark, cold winter. Which makes it hard to categorise: a motherhood thriller? More like a gender equality th ...more
M.T. McGuire
May 04, 2013 M.T. McGuire rated it it was amazing
I was recommended this book by a friend who noticed that my position somewhat mirrors that of the main character; as in trying to combine motherhood and work at home - with similarly mixed results.

However, there's more to it than a feeling of solidarity with stressed out Mums. The writing is excellent, lyrical in many places, laugh out loud funny in others. One bit, particularly, where the girl is hiding from her son and he suddenly appears and starts asking her difficult and fairly random quest
Mar 15, 2012 Susanna rated it really liked it
This is worth reading. A bumbling female academic historian Anna goes to live on a remote Scottish island with her aristocratic husband who is counting puffins and owns the house, a precocious and morbid 7 year old who spends his time re-enacting modern disasters and an insomniac spoiled toddler. Anna is trying to write a book on 19th century history but finds it impossible to combine with sleep deprivation, childcare and eeking out an existence on the island. She is quite an annoying character, ...more
Jan 11, 2012 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
I thought this book was extremely well written. I could totally relate to Anna and her desperate need for sleep. I loved Moth and Raph, and their sayings sometimes made me laugh old loud. I would have liked to know a little more from May Mobberly as I loved the two interwoven stories. I didn't want this to end and I felt a little flat when I turned to the last page and realised Anna's story had ended. Highly recommended.
Feb 27, 2017 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle-read
Night Waking is largely the tale of academic Anna, living with her husband Giles and two young children on an isolated island off Scotland. Her husband is studying the puffin population and Anna is supposed to be writing her book on the history of children raised in institutions and how this affects their development. However, she is constantly sidetracked from this work by the excessive demands of her two boys, Raph (Raphael) and Moth (Timothy) - Raph asks lots of questions and Moth simply has ...more
Jacqueline Masumian
Night Waking is quite a remarkable story. Current day fiction mixed with historical fact, it is narrated by Anna Bennett, an historian trying to finish her book on eighteenth century children’s institutions. Spending the summer with her ornithologist husband on a deserted Hebridean island, Anna is constantly challenged by her boys—their fears, insomnia, ceaseless chatter and questions. However, she soon becomes obsessed with the history of the island and determined to understand it.

The story beg
Nov 12, 2015 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favourites
This is set on a fictional island off the coast of Scotland. Anna is an academic, a wife and the mother of two small children, a sweet natured and troubled seven year old and a loveable demanding toddler. Her husband is sweet natured and loveable too but gives her no support as she juggles child care and house keeping and attempts to write a book which her academic career demands.

When they find a skeleton of a long dead baby buried in the garden their lives take a new twist. Anna is absorbed wi
Anna Sternberg
Jun 01, 2016 Anna Sternberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intelligent book, she fuses past and present and gives a complex and humorous take on the modern anxiety for woman, in how to marry work with motherhood. she gets it so right! The regret is not having the children but the hard job of motherhood that leaves one feeling so disatisfied. Anna, the main character becomes a friend and her experience touched a real place for me. As mothers she tells me all we ever want for our children is for them to be well and happy and if we can't achieve that se ...more
Angela Stafford
Jul 12, 2014 Angela Stafford rated it liked it
This book is about a family who spend a summer on a remote Island of the coast of Scotland. It centers around the mother's dissatisfaction with her lot as mother and wife and her inability to focus on her writing career whilst looking after the family.

I found this book quite hard to rate as I couldn't decide whether I liked or disliked it. On one hand the story moves very slowly. It is an in depth look at relationships and the effect of the choices we make. Slow and steady is not usually my thi
Lisa Farrell
Nov 03, 2016 Lisa Farrell rated it it was amazing
Even though I didn't like any of the characters in this novel, I loved this so much. Brilliantly written and beautifully imagined, this is a painfully realistic story of a mother struggling to balance her life as an academic with motherhood. Spending the summer on a remote Hebridean island, Anna is finding life increasingly frustrating as her husband spends most if his time researching puffins while Anna juggles the household chores, caring for the children and finishing her academic book. Thing ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Suzierussell rated it did not like it
I was highly irritated by the toddler's nickname of "Moth", and vexed that it took the author until page 61 to inform me that it was short for Timothy. How did I not guess that? Pretentious.

A 7 year old reading engineering text books? Highly precocious and clearly heading for a nervous breakdown, as is his chronically sleep deprived mother. For a woman with a PhD, she's incredibly stupid, as is her equally academic but idiotic husband. A book that needed tighter editing and a reality check.
Aug 02, 2016 Rita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lekker doorleesboek, intrigerende omgeving. Spannend en vervolgens was ik niet eens teleurgesteld toen het geen grote plot had. Heerlijke observaties en typeringen. Soms iets te Bridget Joneserig: er is geen voedingsmiddel dat ze eten dat niet -helaas al weer!- over de datum is.
May 22, 2012 Jenny rated it it was ok

Read this for my book club. Very funny in parts but the characters were unlovable and annoying. Felt like homework at times, but glad I persevered to the end.
Jul 19, 2016 Bruno rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I ADORED this book. Highly recommend it. One of my favourites of the year so far for sure. Read it!!!
Renita D'Silva
Aug 11, 2015 Renita D'Silva rated it liked it
An intelligent, witty take on juggling motherhood and work, with a mystery from the past thrown in. Could absolutely relate to Anna. Loved this book.
Carey Combe
Too much of put-upon wife and useless husband, comic chick lit set pieces about food on clothes etc, disguised as a social/historical thriller on why babies died on the islands - what a surprise.
Jul 24, 2011 Adrian rated it it was amazing
Why isn't this in the Booker long list?
Jun 28, 2012 Blair marked it as attempted
Far, far, FAR too much about babies/children/motherhood from the word go. No thanks.
3.5 stars

I read this because I loved The Tidal Zone. This shares many aspects of The Tidal Zone, but I feel like they were not executed nearly as well. The writing is often beautiful, but it lacked some of the breath-taking observations that captivated me in The Tidal Zone. It also lacked the ease that The Tidal Zone's writing had. I did however, much appreciate Anna's sarcastic narration. Even though I'm not a parent, I found hear easy to empathize with, and the blunt quips about the struggles
Jan 11, 2017 Snorki rated it really liked it
I have read previous books by Sarah Moss and always enjoyed them. This is the third novel I've read with a connecting thread running through. This novel is mostly set on a remote Scottish island in contemporary times, but there's a thread running through of letters from May Mobberly, a Manchester nurse sent up in the 1800s to try and help with the high levels of infant mortality. May is a character found in the first novel I read - Bodies of Light - although I have since found out that Night Wak ...more
Julia Chilver
Feb 16, 2017 Julia Chilver rated it it was amazing
This is really a 4.5 star book for me. It was recommended by a friend who said that everything she has read since has been spoilt by this book, as she keeps thinking, "Yeah but it's not as good as Night Waking."
I didn't have this kind of attachment to the book.

It describes beautifully how tricky it is to be a mother. It would be difficult for any mother not to identify with Anna over some things. It is very middle class and I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable (except Raph -
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All About Books: Night Waking by Sarah Moss (Feb 17 Group Fiction Read) 34 42 Mar 04, 2017 01:03AM  
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Sarah Moss is the award-winning author of three previous novels: Night Waking, selected for the Fiction Uncovered Award in 2011, Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland, shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Prize in 2013, and Bodies of Light, shortlisted for the prestigious Wellcome Prize. Signs for Lost Children was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize and longlisted for the Walter Scott ...more
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