Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Second Sleep” as Want to Read:
The Second Sleep
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Second Sleep

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  15,335 ratings  ·  2,080 reviews
All civilisations think they are invulnerable. History warns us none is.

1468. A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artefacts – coins, fragments of glass, human bones – which the old parson used to collect. Did his obsession with the past lead to his death?

Kindle Edition, 330 pages
Published September 5th 2019 by Cornerstone Digital (first published August 20th 2019)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,335 ratings  ·  2,080 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Second Sleep
Jeffrey Keeten
***It is impossible to discuss this book with any level of intelligence without revealing aspects that some of you will deem spoilers. Ye have been warned. Any childish rants on my thread and ye will be cursed for all eternity. Thy spawn will also be cursed until the end of days. (Which frankly isn’t that far in the future, so as curses go, it is not as dire as it sounds.)***

”We know that almost every person, including children, was issued with a device that enabled them to see and hear one ano
Jul 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This almost succeeds. That is, almost, but not quite. As usual the writing is terrific as he captures a time and a place that seems historically familiar yet is not what it appears to be. Again, as usual, the characters are well drawn and the pace builds nicely gaining momentum as you read further. I wasn’t overly enthused about the ending which led me to think, “All of this for that?” If you are a fan of Harris’ I would recommend reading this since it’s so different from what he usually writes.
May 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Several years ago I learnt about the so-called second sleep which was a nocturnal routine in the Middle Ages in England, probably not only there, which meant simply waking up in the middle of the night and relaxing, doing things people were unable to do during the daytime. Consequently, the title of this book intrigued me.
I admit that this was my second attempt to read this novel, probably the timing for the first one was bad. Fortunately, I decided to give this book another chance. The idea beh
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Five stars for the concept and the first half of the book which was engrossing. Zero stars for the second half and the all-of-a-sudden half-baked ending.
Diane S ☔
Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 A versatile author who has tackled everything from Pompeii to the election of the pope in Conclave. In this one he presents the reader with another unique plot, one I will not discuss as it would be deemed as ruining the read for others. I will say it is done well, is a very interesting concept and presents a moral dilemma for a young priest. The characters are varied, and a few not what they seem.

The book was going along nicely, was thoroughly immersed in the story, wondering where it woul
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
This is a book where spoilers are absolutely unavoidable if you want to write any sort of review, so I’ll make the general observations upfront before getting into spoiler territory.

This book is a very different animal from most Harris books I’ve read. It’s very atmospheric and rather constrained, with most of the story being told in narration. While written in the third person, we never leave Christopher Fairfax’s head to see elements beyond his perception, and this absolutely works. The style
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
More than thousand years had washed over England since those days a civilisation had fallen and another had been reborn, and life went on in Addicot St George as if nothing had happened.

The book starts with two important epigraphs.

The first from the historian Roger Ekirch’s now (I think) well known discovery/contention that biphasic sleep (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biphasi...) was the norm in the pre-Industrial Revolution West.

The second is from Thomas Hardy’s “Mayor of Castlebridge”
Elizabeth Ireland
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
What a great twist at the end of Chapter 1. Rest of book, not so much.
Mr. Ronald
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Hardly worth the bother.

Poor characters. Clever plot that goes nowhere. Leaden prose that struggles at describing motivations or time and place.
Don’t bother.
Leslie Ray
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Fairfax is a young clergyman dispatched to a remote English village to perform a funeral for Father Lacy, the former priest in this village. While there, Christopher finds that Father Lacy was interested in artifacts from a previous age; an age of iphones, legos, keys, etc. that have survived an apocalypse. In this time, man is reverted to a medieval type existence where delving too much into the past is considered heresy.
This speculative fiction into a future planet is quite prevale
Karl Jorgenson
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If I had to guess why this book has a somewhat lower rating, it's because the ending, logically arrived at, is not filled with rainbows of hope. It's kind of a downer. Although, you can turn that assessment around and see the promise of humanity.
Second Sleep is a crazy departure for Harris. It's set in 15th century England, with all the mud, crude wine, feudally-oppressed peasants, fanatical priests burning heretics at the stake, and everybody getting pregnant by age 15, marrying at 16, having k
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Second Sleep is another fine story from Robert Harris. It opens in the year 1468, where we encounter a young priest travelling from Exeter (where I live!) to a remote Exmoor village.
In the first two chapters Harris creates some excellent characters & a wonderful atmosphere of time & place. Then I read the third chapter & found myself saying "What the fuck ?!"
It's great to see that one of my favourite authors still has the ability to surprise me. This is a novel that is best read without kno
Eric Lee
Oct 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: thriller, time-travel
Robert Harris often has the very best ideas for his books, but sometimes the book itself is a real let-down. The Second Sleep is an example of this. First of all, his good idea -- the big reveal -- comes very early in the book. What seems at first to be a tale set in Medieval England turns out to be set 800 years in the future -- as we quickly learn when an Apple iPhone turns up unexpectedly. And that's basically it. Nothing else very interesting happens. The books builds up to the digging out o ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think I have read almost all of Robert Harris' books, so you can definitely call me a fan. He usually writes historical fiction that is as imaginative as it is educational, so this books, a sort of dystopian reverse history was quite a departure. I am not a fan of dystopian books at all, so was only moderately excited to hear about this one, nonetheless, I couldn't quite resists and had to see what it was about. It took me a good while longer than usual with his books to get into this story, i ...more
Clemens Schoonderwoert
Without prejudice I have to say that this is somewhat of a disappointing book in my opinion, from this otherwise superb author.

This book is compared to the Cicero trilogy, An Officer an a Spy, Enigma, Pompeii and other classic titles from this author, certainly and definitely inferior in style and quality.

At the beginning of the book you'll notice two epigraphs who'll play an important part in this story.

Storytelling is as ever of a very good quality, the story flows from begin to end, no doubt
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a book to approach, ideally, without reading a single review or any advance publicity, if you want to get the full effect of the twist in the first chapter. Even if you don’t have that advantage (I didn’t), it’s an intriguing and thought-provoking read, although less weighty and compelling than Harris’s Dreyfus-themed An Officer and a Spy (2013)—now a film by Polanski—and perhaps also less elegant and finished than his Vatican-themed Conclave (2016).

By pure chance, I read The Second Sle
See! This is exactly what I’m talking about! At work a few years ago now, we were told to stop using usb sticks to store our work and start using *the cloud*. I was very resistant because *the cloud* what does that mean really? Where does that leave us if/when the power fails? All that knowledge lost. All my kindle books lost. Life as it’s set up nowadays couldn’t survive one minute without computer technology- the pure logistics of getting food or fuel to people- and the majority of the populat ...more
Jul 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Second Sleep (2019) - is Robert Harris' historical thriller set in 1468. It's the story of a young priest sent to a small rural village in England to bury his predecessor and his subsequent and unintended search to establish the cause of his untimely death.

The title 'Second Sleep' refers ostensibly to the historically evidenced culture of there having been a first and second period of sleep each night, broken by a short waking time. It is also presumably and metaphorically a reference to a
Julian Worker
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A book set in 1468 in the Middle Ages of the future, an intriguing idea which takes some getting used to. I didn't realise the basic premise until the word Elizabethan was used and even then I thought the date in the front of the book might be wrong, but it's not of course.

This book is easy to read and well written, as you expect from Robert Harris.

This book does make me realise how much we rely on electricity to power our devices and machinery and how much information about our lives would be
Berengaria di Rossi
2.5 stars

First disappointment: this novel has zero to do with 1st and 2nd Sleeps. That is a sleeping pattern common in the medieval period to the 18th century, when people would sleep for a while (1st sleep), but then wake up and be active for a few hours in the middle of the night before going back to bed again (2nd sleep).

This happens to be my natural sleeping pattern. I get a ton of stuff done between 1st and 2nd sleep, just like people in times past did and so was interested to see how H

Desperate food for thought. This was my first experience with this author and I loved it.

“If the ancients were foolish enough to trade with airy tokens, 'tis no wonder they were ruined. It both made their vast trade possible and rendered them beggars when it failed. Consider waking up one morning entirely destitute, with skills no longer of value or any use in the struggle for life! Their world was based upon imagining—mere castles made of vapour. The wind blew; it vanished.”
There's a reason why Robert Harris is a contender for my favourite author of all time and The Second Sleep reminds me why. I want to say as little as possible about this wonderful novel that challenges completely readers' expectations and assumptions. It is not what you think it is! I would urge you not to read any reviews of this book as you want to go in knowing as little as possible. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights. ...more
This was a full 4 star read until the last 70 to 75 pages. Who am I to question such an author's turn to complete this tale? But suffice it to record I would have given a more complete or satisfying to actions/reactions ending. Because the characters- at least 5 or 6 of them were fully carved here. And yet the summation of after was not at all.

Some will insist that the book cannot be reviewed without spoilers. I'm pretty sure it can.

One of the biggest themes throughout mankind's existence has be
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Peter White
Sep 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
Second sleep Harris

Found the book very very disappointing not mr Harris I have enjoyed with his other books.
Poor plot , pathetic ending
Very expensive book and audio for what I got out of it.
Peter white
Jul 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
One of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read and one I wouldn’t have read if it hadn’t been written by Robert Harris whose books I usually enjoy. It’s built on an interesting premise, however. Due to a catastrophic event, the world has regressed over the following centuries to a time that resembles the 15th century, ruled by King and Church, largely agrarian, and with no access to any of the technologies that had existed pre-Armageddon. There are a few who know the truth about ‘the ancients’ ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels-set-in-uk
A 'medieval' mystery set in WESSEX

The Second Sleep is set in the Year of the Risen Lord 1468. A newly ordained priest is sent on a mission to Wessex to bury a village minister who has just died. The reader thinks that maybe Robert Harris has been careless when he talks about parakeets in the air and the dead minister has what appears to be an old iPhone in his room. But all soon becomes clear (not a spoiler because it is revealed very early…), We are not in 1468 as we would understand it. We are
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was sometimes amusing, sometimes alarming, and was probably fun to write. It introduces us to a time in the future, long past the apocalypse, where the surviving population is fearful and held to strictures about what it is possible to think about, know or do. The people have to at least be survivors, but there seems little evidence of joy in living.
The church holds power and one of its representatives is the main character we meet, a priest coming from afar to temporarily replace one
Ian Beardsell
Sep 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Robert Harris is a more versatile author than I thought. I had previously read and much enjoyed his WWII political thriller Munich, but "The Second Sleep" was quite a different setting, although just as thrilling.

This story follows the young priest, Christopher Fairfax, sent by the Bishop of Exeter to conduct the funeral and wrap up the affairs of a small village priest who dies under unusual circumstances. The year is 1468, but this is where it gets interesting. It is 1468 "Year of Our Risen Lo
Maine Colonial
Imagine if suddenly technology ended. No electronics or even electricity, no wired or wireless communications. Civilization would collapse quickly, and only those able to get out to the countryside and adapt to a primitive lifestyle would survive.

That’s what has has happened in The Second Sleep. The story begins in what appears to be a late medieval Wessex village, in 1468. Only it’s not our 1468. The Church, which is now all powerful, designated the year of the collapse as year 666, and we are
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Bait
  • Guilty Not Guilty
  • Haven’t You Heard?: Gossip, Power, and How Politics Really Works
  • Fallen Angel
  • For the Record
  • Nobber
  • Dead at First Sight (Roy Grace, #15)
  • I Am Sovereign
  • House of War (Ben Hope, #20)
  • Absolute Proof
  • Salvation Lost (Salvation Sequence, #2)
  • Doing Time (The Time Police #1)
  • Brigantia (Vindolanda #3)
  • Who Am I, Again?
  • Doggerland
  • One Way Out (Harry Virdee #4)
  • Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas
  • Nemesis (Tom Wilde, #3)
See similar books…
ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his ...more

Related Articles

It’s hard to believe the year 2022 is already coming to an end. That went fast, didn’t it? Still, there’s just enough time to wedge in a...
26 likes · 3 comments
“All civilisations consider themselves invulnerable; history warns us that none is.” 4 likes
“And we also know that almost every person, including children, was issued with a device that enabled them to see and hear one another, however far apart in the world they might be; that these devices were small enough to be carried in the palm of one’s hand; that they gave instant access to all the knowledge and music and opinions and writings in the world; and that in due course they displaced human memory and reasoning and even normal social intercourse – an enfeebling and narcotic power that some say drove their possessors mad, to the extent that their introduction marked the beginning of the end of advanced civilisation.” 1 likes
More quotes…