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The House of Sleep

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  9,694 ratings  ·  582 reviews
Like a surreal and highly caffeinated version of The Big Chill, Jonathan Coe's new novel follows four students who knew each other in college in the eighties. Sarah is a narcoleptic who has dreams so vivid she mistakes them for real events. Robert has his life changed forever by the misunderstandings that arise from her condition. Terry spends his wakeful nights fueling hi ...more
Paperback, First Vintage Contemporaries Edition, 337 pages
Published May 1999 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Wiz I believe it's a simply a random stranger, although there is also the inference (made by Gregory soon after) that it may have been one of Sarah's vivi…moreI believe it's a simply a random stranger, although there is also the inference (made by Gregory soon after) that it may have been one of Sarah's vivid dreams that she mistook for reality. Personally, I go with the theory that it DID happen but that it also conveniently acts as a plot device to introduce the idea of Sarah's narcolepsy and the novel's subsequent themes of reality/interpretation/illusion. If you look at the author's note that prefaces the book, all the odd numbered chapters take place in one period of the novel's chronology and the even numbered ones at a later date. Thus, it would not have been possible for this to have been Sarah's husband who she did not meet until she left Ashdown,(less)
Chris Hannigan
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  9,694 ratings  ·  582 reviews

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Jul 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Jonathan Coe, as he has demonstrated many times, is an agile and humane writer, and this book is perfectly readable and fitfully affecting. However, it's not the complex masterpiece it's touted as being. What has been described as an intricate structure is, in reality, a protracted series of coincidences that carries on right to the end. The central plot twist can be seen coming a mile away, and the four or five main characters' lives intersect in so many ways that you'd think they were the only ...more
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
"The House of Sleep" provides a unique reading experience, that's for sure. Its very structure resembles sleep, as the chapters are named after the stages one goes through when sleeping. Hence, reading it, you actually feel like sinking into a restless sleep full of dreams.

Coe has made a hell of a job with the characters. Each has their own path to follow, their own issues, fears and complications. Yet they affect each other's lives in extraordinary manners. One thing they all have in common th
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Sometimes I think there must be something broken inside my head, for often as I read books which are labeled "funny", "hilarious", "silly" I find myself rarely cracking a smile during my reading. In fact, I am often so distracted by the idea that it is labeled as such that I am downright disturbed that anyone would find humor in the work. This is one of those books.

Maybe to some sleep disorders are funny, maybe narcoleptics say and do funny things (losing ones job due to narcolepsy must be the "
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oh my freakin' duck! This book is how I've imagined LSD on bread would be like. This book is life (now I sound like a tumblrer), everything and the reason why I love reading! I live for this kind of books! Something like this of such majesty, fervour, ingenious depth has to be felt and steered perpetually from end to end of oneself. As those being said, Jonathan Coe is a master of mind tricks enclosed by words and brought to surface by the body's trembling. Left with tears flooding my eyes on th ...more
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
There are four major characters in this novel, all of whom knew each other in college. There's Sarah, who suffers from narcolepsy and often cannot discern the events she sees in her dreams from reality. There's Robert, who might be the one affected most by Sarah's disorder (but I can't tell you why without spoiling an awesome twist). There's Terry, film critic and insomniac who claims to not have slept in almost ten years. And Gregory, a world-renowned sleep therapist who believes that sleep is ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
“There’s a fine line between forgetting an event, and suppressing the memory of it.”
Ieva Andriuskeviciene
“ ‘A disease, Terry - the most widespread and life-curtailing disease of all! Forget cancer, forget multiple sclerosis, forget AIDS. If you spend eight hours a day in bed, then sleep is shortening your life by a third! That’s equivalent of dying at the age of fifty- and it’s happening to all of us. This is more than just a disease: this is a plague! And none of us is immune, you realise.”

Very clever and twisted book about group of people who met in their student years in the eighties an
Feb 16, 2008 rated it liked it
I wanted to really like this novel, because I felt like it did a lot of things very well. The story was intriguing, the characters had the potential to be very interesting, all of that good stuff. But for some reason, while I was entertained by the story, I didn't really develop any kind of emotional attachment to the characters. I never felt like I really knew them, and it felt kind of like all the characters were playing pieces that the author moved around at will. I'm curious if other people ...more
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I found this book on a tram as part of the BookTraveller's organisation whereby people purposely leave books behind for strangers to read. And so I think I must have done something right in my life to have had the chance encounter with a Jonathan Coe book. This was the first time I'd heard of Jonathan Coe and this was to become one of my favourite books of all time. In my view, this book is flawless. The writing, the humour, the sorrows, the prose- I cried and laughed and long after I had finish ...more
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Chapters alternate between two periods a decade apart: student days (with various sleep and relationship problems) and years later as they meet up, centred on a sleep research establishment that is in the house they once shared as students.

What at first appears to be a straightforward tale of students growing up turns out to be much more sinister.
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Two months ago, I picked up a copy of The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim off of a library shelf, and I have become hooked on Jonathan Coe. I think he is brilliant - his writing is immensely creative and funny, his characters are compelling and quirky, his plots are extremely well-crafted, and he always keeps you guessing. He takes risks in the structure of his novels, and while I usually prefer sequential narrative, I think he does an amazing job of telling a story in a non-linear way. It is al ...more
Whenever I write a review for a pseudo-intellectual, surreal story filled with a cast that is both beautifully tragic and surprisingly uplifting in a burdened atmosphere, I become self conscious. Reviewing those types of books is like reviewing Lolita, Nietzsche, or any Hunter Thompson book...readers tend to focus on what you missed, why you don't agree or disagree with their findings and, ultimately, declare you an idiot for not getting the underlining messages hidden throughout the book that t ...more
Gary Murning
A clever, fascinatingly plotted novel, House of Sleep had all the ingredients of a potentially great novel. Well-drawn, intriguing characters, at times vividly descriptive I did enjoy it.

However, I did feel kept at a distance. The multiple viewpoint third person narrative gave it a cinematic quality (apt in many ways, I know) that -- and this is more to do with personal preference -- didn't allow me all the way "in". I have a well-established dislike of novels that switch viewpoint mid-scene, I
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tutto-coe
I met Coe in my youth and I like him, or I think I do. I also think we have that kind of dragged relationship that could be broken up any moment, but it goes on out of habit.
I read the Italian translation of this novel many years ago and I decided to read it again in its original language, but the feeling hasn't changed: too complex for a light reading and not complex enough for a deep reading. I think there is too much going on and in the end many subplot are there to act like a deus ex machin
Florin Murarașu-Catană
Soap opera or Hollywood movie script or just poor writing: full of clichés, things that miraculously happen at the exact moment. Blend in a bit of psychology, narcolepsy, a chronologically divided story line and there you have it. One of the most disappointing books I've read this year. ...more
Nick Davies
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I picked this up second hand as the blurb looked interesting, only to find out when I got home that the only other book by the same author that I'd read ('The Rain Before it Falls') I'd found disappointing. Hence this book had sat on my shelf unread for six months before I picked it up today. I finished it today too, which is quite indicative of how good a book it is.

The novel consists of alternating chapters set in the mid 1980s and a decade or so later, following a group of students and where
Gemma Williams
Mar 21, 2008 rated it liked it
I really did enjoy this, although with a few reservations. It is very funny, and the plot is quite ingenious and very interesting. It is a bit over reliant on unlikely coincidence, and for some reason it niggles ; he's not quite good enough to get you to totally suspend your disbelief. Plus, the writer is obviously not a lesbian or a transsexual and doesn't write very convincing characters who are. That aside, this was really very funny with a couple of cracking set pieces. There's a wickedly sh ...more
Cristina Ana
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Meh… Although I was attracted by the subject (sleep disorders) and I was able to appreciate the structure, I think it falls short on building plausible, interesting characters that readers can get attached to (except for Sarah, maybe). I didn’t find it witty, as I knew from other reviews I was supposed to (it failed to get me to be remotely amused, with the exception of very few instances), but rather gothic, and ultimately, it kind of pushed my tolerance to implausibility.
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, 2015
Surprising and not quite like anything else I've read. ...more
Anda P.
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Y u such a genius, Jonathan Coe?
Mikhail Yukhnovskiy
I remember, there were some books that felt as if they were made of the substance of dreams, slow, hazy and beautiful or scary. The House of Sleep is not one of them. It is at the same time much more mundane and more surreal.

The plot centers, and as we later learn revolves around a pretty small group of people who were students sharing accomodation and a building, in which they all lived. The building is in fact The House of Sleep and it is so in more ways than you can imagine. The students arou
Johen Lvinson
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
What is in the book: Some students lived for a certain period in the dormitories. Some of the former students have sleep disorders but are not interesting — these sleep disturbances channeled in the minority to where these disorders treated, 12 years later - the same structure that once housed their dormitories. The director of the sleep lab is one of the heroes of the book, also a former student.

What is not in the book: There is no big and exciting love story, but a small with a bizarre spin.
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maria Grazia
Can a book make you laugh out loud and also make your heart ache? Yes, it happens sometimes and it usually means it's by a great writer. "The House of Sleep" is a clever, brilliant, delightful and touching novel. It was my first Jonathan Coe book, but his brilliancy and intelligence won me and I'm currently reading a second book, The Rain Before It Falls, which is so beautiful and so sad.

"The House of Sleep" is built on two parallel narrative lines telling the stories of the same characters in
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Michelle by: Aaron Westermann
Shelves: 2013-read
I have always thought of myself of a stingy awarder of a 5 star rating; alas, I have not been so stingy of late. Jonathan Coe's The House of Sleep is my 6th 5 star rating of 2013. However, being privileged to have so many good friends with such great tastes in literature sure helps stack the bookcase with good reads. The House of Sleep is a favorite of my friend Aaron. Although he and I do not agree upon the greatness of every book, we definitely agree on the greatness of Coe's House of Sleep.

Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Coe set a high standard with What a Carve Up! so I wasn’t so sure that my reread of House of Sleep would live up to that book. The fact that I forgot most of it is a telltale sign. There was no need to worry. If anything The House of Sleep is equally good.

Jonathan Coe is an eclectic author. Sure he does have some themes that are commonplace : politics, love’s power, music and a couple of disturbing moments. However, he is clever enough to disguise them with an original plot.

Sarah is nar
Lee Foust
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it's clever, often funny, and even touching--but I can't help feeling that The House of Sleep is just a tiny bit too much of each of these things. It's also the second book I've read in a row where I feel loath to discourse upon it in print because it would be something of a disservice to a prospective reader. Best to jump into this one with no expectations and let it take you where it will without having any signposts. Yes, it's worth it (4 stars for me means a good book, 5 is great and 3 ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
First and for most you have to know something about this book. It contains horrific animal cruelty.

And I mean absolutely horrific. If I had known this I would not have picked the book up. I certainly couldn’t read it after a few sentences . It made me feel sick and very upset. I have an incredibly low tolerance for animal cruelty and I couldn’t bear it.

It’s a good book but that override everything and was too much for me.

I remember reading another one of his that also had extreme animal cruelty
Carol Fenlon
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Opened this with great expectations, being a big fan of Coe. I have to say I found it a bit harder to get into than some of his other novels. I got a bit confused with all the characters and the time shifts but I got used to it in the end. I didn't feel a great deal of empathy for the characters at first but towards the end I started to feel for Robert and Sarah and I was glad it ended as it did. There are certainly plenty of surprises and the many devices of form so characteristic of Coe kept m ...more
Derek James Baldwin
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very enjoyable novel that messes you around just enough in the early chapters to intrigue you into keeping reading, then draws all the threads together very neatly. The fact that the story is so openly contrived might irritate some, but I appreciated the author's efforts even if some of the deeper points he might have been trying to make aren't fully realised. There are some marvellously funny moments along the way, in particular Terry Worth's dialogue with an irritating tyro American film direc ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Jonathan Coe, born 19 August 1961 in Birmingham, is a British novelist and writer. His work usually has an underlying preoccupation with political issues, although this serious engagement is often expressed comically in the form of satire. For example, What a Carve Up! rew

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