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Madeleine Is Sleeping

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,260 ratings  ·  210 reviews
When a girl falls into a deep and impenetrable sleep, the borders between her provincial French village and the peculiar, beguiling realm of her dreams begin to disappear: A fat woman sprouts delicate wings and takes flight; a failed photographer stumbles into the role of pornographer; a beautiful young wife grows to resemble her husband's viol. And in their midst travels ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Harcourt, Inc (first published September 1st 2004)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  1,260 ratings  ·  210 reviews

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Jun 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: novels
I generally don't reread books, but I've returned to this book many times to dip back in and savor individual pages that read, and look, like prose poems. This is one book I haven't put on the shelf after reading, but kept on my night stand since 2004. I have yet to articulate, let alone pinpoint the fascination, but there is something about Bynum's language that speaks to me like oracle, something akin to an ancient augury, birds taking flight to the east (or perhaps it's just the ative prose ...more
Jamie Felton
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fairytale
This is a story told in snatches of information laden with gossamer imagery and lush description. The creepy and the lovely are placed right on top of each other creating this feeling of wonder that all of these things can exist together. Madeleine is sleeping, and we are privy to her dreams as well as the world that is going on around her; however, the border between the two worlds is thin and permeable. Her dreams are filled with unusual people commonly categorized as "freaks" (I am a sucker ...more
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is a really cool book. Handjobs, spanking, provincial France, a young girl's sexual awakening, disfigurement: what more could one want? Some of its quirkiness was off-putting at first (a fat woman who sprouts wings and a woman who looks like a viol are among the first characters introduced) but once the heart of the story emerged I was hooked. With beautiful writing and an admirably clever form for a simple and age-old story, all its quirkiness pays off as Madeleine's dreams and reality ...more
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a National Book Award finalist. A gossamer work, of the type that has to be read on the right day, in the right light, the right mood, as it falls very softly on the psyche. I found the fragments very lovely in themselves but not compelling on the cumulative level--most likely a factor of my own rather carnivorous mood at the moment. Will definitely give this another try in the cool of a summer day, a more dreamy geist to my zeit.

Mar 27, 2014 rated it liked it
For the first fifty pages or so (epub), I loved this book. Madeleine is sleeping, dreaming up beautiful dreams and spectacular characters and plots. Her Mother looks on, and the book goes like this for a while - switching from Madeleine's dreams to Mother, in the outside world, watching her daughter sleep.

But then I got extremely confused. Because Madeleine is, suddenly, also not sleeping...? And the characters she had dreamed up are modified (and less spectacular) participants in both her
What a beautiful circle of a book. It was a bizarre one, and I loved it. Madeleine sleeps and as she stirs in her sleep we get to read what she is dreaming about. Her real and dream lives connect and take turns, becoming so indistinguishable that her reality could be her dream world and her dreams could be reality. Or maybe they are one and the same.

The language is gorgeous, cyclical, spare, beautifully crafted. It was hard for me to believe that Bynum wrote this book because it is so very
jenna Hudrlik
I only let myself read a few pages a day of this book because I never wanted it to end. This is one of those books where I almost dont want to tell anyone about it because if they dont love it as much as they should then I am not sure that I could ever talk to them again...(lol) I love the prose style of writing, and the images that she puts in your head are amazing. This book is by far in my top 10 of all time. I must own a copy immediatley and read it once a year.
Feb 11, 2019 added it
Shelves: owned-books
I've no idea how to review this, so I'm certainly not going to try and give it a star rating. If you're intrigued by the concept or the blurb, by all means, support the author and give it a try! The writing is lyrical and there were some achingly human moments in it that kept me going, but overall, I don't think I liked it much at alland I tend to really enjoy weird books. That said, I did finish it, though toward the end, I felt it lost a lot of the steam it had perpetually built up by way of ...more
Celeste Ng
A truly wonderful book--both "full of wonders" and beautifully done. I didn't know what to expect from it, but I really enjoyed it. It's one of the most innovative books I've read in a long, long time, one of those books where you suddenly sit upright and whisper, "You can DO that?" It reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.

Madeleine Is Sleeping is very much an experimentation in form, but what keeps it from being *just* experimental, and elevates it a well-crafted novel,
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
A young girl's strange, erotic journey... The other reviews here pretty much say it all. The vignettes are simultaneously lovely and freaky, and Bynum doesn't stray for a second from the fairylike, haunting tone she sets on the first page. This book was crafted perfectly. As a story, though, there was something missing for me. I think maybe I just don't find sexual awakening and the ensuing social consequences interesting enough to carry an entire novel. Also, the freak show thing has since been ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely magical!!! I started this book not realizing what the format was going to be (small one-three paragraph chapters), which was a little off-putting at first. But then I started again on another night when I wasn't so tired and I am so glad that I did! This book is so beautiful, the prose blurring into poetry, the imagery creating a whole new world behind your eyes, complete with a fat lady who one day sprouts beautiful, fluttering wings. It is a sweet, sad melody that you cannot get out ...more
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
surreal, somewhat grotesque, and very strange...I couldn't tell which parts were supposed to be really happening, and it was disturbing at some the brothers and sisters were eating the girl at one point and saying that she tasted burnt around the edges...not my kind of fairy tale.
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I don't even know how to review this gorgeous book other than to say that I read it in many places, but the best was when I was sitting by the river on the first hot day of the year, the sun so bright that I could only see the page in front of me. Magic.
Sep 01, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a strange and off-putting book. The lyrical, dream-like style contrasts (deliberately, I think) with ugly words and shock value. I wanted to like it more.
Michael Bacon
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
A daring, creative, risk taking novel. It's an unconventional fairy tale, and very different from anything else I have read. The finely crafted structure and evocative language are the things that impressed me the most, but perhaps also the things I think people might struggle with.

This book definitely won't be for everyone. At times it is grotesque; even more often it is baffling. You definitely have to be OK with not really getting what is going on (exercising what John Keats called "negative
Robert Wechsler
Very well written, somehow manages not to be too precious, but its gossamer nature wasn't enough to pull me in or through.
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Small mouthfuls of story

A lyrical novel, whose form reminded me of Light Boxes and The Pink Institution, but the story, for all of its magical realism, is solid - the unique characters are well-formed and compelled by solid motivations (lust, romance, revenge, etc), the story has romance and suspense, all contained within a paragraph or so on each page, set off by a word or short phrase (for example: "Madeleine is sleeping" or "Stirring" or "Arcane"). As a writer, I found its form and lyricism
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A fat woman sprouts delicate wings and takes flight; a failed photographer stumbles into the role of pornographer; a beautiful young wife grows to resemble her husband's viol: these are all characters in Sarah Shun Li Bynum's marvelous gem of a novel. Composed in deceptively simple vignettes, Madeleine Is Sleeping follows the life of a young comatose girl in provincial France as she joins a circus, entangles herself in a bizarre love triangle, and discovers the power behind the dreamed and the ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Mar 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastically strange read. Madeleine Is Sleeping is like drinking from a strange nectar and then being caught in someone else's web of dreams. I didn't expect to enjoy this so much. I delighted in the flying 'fat woman' and the talented flatulent man. I will need to read this book over to really understand the fruit of it. I finished it in two days because I couldn't put it down, except to sleep and what an odd dream I had last night, lended by the novel I am guessing. Highly ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-adult
Interesting premise where most of the story takes place as a dream / fantasy sequence w/ weird sexual overtones and an unsatisfying ending.
Sidik Fofana
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
SIX WORD REVIEW: Floating along in an hypnagogic world.
Taylor Norman
Madeleine Is Sleeping, read May 18, 2019
Sophie had instructed her to watch his face crumple, majestic and startling like a damp sheet collapsing from the washline . . . (35).

How terrible it is to recognize that ones brilliance rests solely upon the small-mindedness of others (79).

Well, there was a story, she says, and what matters is that you liked it, and that I told it to you. I told it to you countless times, for you could not be satisfied, and would refuse to hear another story, or to hear
Liss Carmody
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've been thinking since yesterday what I should write about Madeleine Is Sleeping, and I still have honestly no idea. It's a surreal dreamscape of strangeness depicted in lovely language. I'm trained to interpret literature and still I've got nothing. It's an experience, like a particularly sublime yet complicated flavor of mousse or listening to certain kinds of transcendent music, that defies explanation and can only be experienced directly. I enjoyed it wholly while I was devouring it, ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I have never read a book like this, and I highly doubt I will ever find one quite like it again.

It is very confusing and yet somehow, the more you read, the more it seems to make sense; in its own weird way of course.

When I began this book I didn't know what the make of it, I though it was a collection of random paragraphs but Madeleine Is Sleeping is really quite a beautiful work of imagination and skill and whilst it is not really my cup of tea, one cannot deny the talent it takes to write
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up
I wanted to like this book but it was a bit too much for me. I couldnt always see the distinction among the dreams, fantasy, and reality that make up the story, and that became frustrating. I gave up. ...more
Rosanna Miranda o'leary
Geez, what was that? I'm sure this book was meant to leave the reader guessing whether at any given point we were in Madeleine's dream or in the "real world". I suppose the reader is meant to be confused and befuddled, like waking from a dream. So, yeah, mission accomplished?
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This book unfolds in little dream-like vignettes, often hazy and absurd and sweet, but with small cruel moments that catch you off-guard. To be honest though, I read this book to fall asleep, ten or twenty pages at a time - no plots or characters kept me reading.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was so weird. I had no idea what was going on and confused throughout. The pages were short so I kept thinking I missed something, or that the next page would answer all of my questions....nope. Weird.
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I give the author credit for creativity, some pretty language, and interesting characters and images, but ultimately the book felt too self-consciously lyrical and experimental.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Odd and interesting, but I don't think I really understood it!
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Goodreads Librari...: Correct author name, please 3 16 Jul 11, 2017 02:43AM  
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Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is an American writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter and teaches writing and literature at UC San Diego.

Bynum is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Madeleine is Sleeping was published by Harcourt in 2004 and was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her short

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