Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 10 June 2013

Sleeping Patterns - J. R. Crook

This a short work of just over a hundred pages and it is an unusual narrative of layered stories. The opening surprised me and heightened my interest - the novel is 'dedicated to the memory of the author'. Then we have an introduction by Annelie Strandli, know to her friends as Grethe, who is also a character in the book, alerting us to the fact that the story we are about to read consists of fifteen elements of a tale by the writer. Berry Walker is a withdrawn and introverted insomniac and an aspiring writer who Annelie lives with (amongst others) in a student residence. She hopes to discover more about him through his writings. Within the elements of the story that describe Annelie's narrative, there is another layer recounting the story of a boy, Boy One, a dreamer, and the story explores the notion of dreaming, not just whilst asleep but whilst awake; 'he allowed his dreaming to overflow into the daylight hours.' 

I enjoyed this book, in fact I think I was a little unsure whether at first I would like it, and it pleasantly surprised me; it offered me something different and I felt the way it was written made me sit up and pay attention. I discovered that the fifteen chapters or pieces of the story are numbered non-sequentially; first I read 5, then 1, then 11. I was intrigued, and tempted to rearrange them and read them from 1 to 15 as per usual, but I resisted and read the book as it was presented to me. It made me think and re-evaluate what I expected from a work of fiction, after all, the author is named in the book, so is this entirely fiction? How does the relationship between the reader and the writer and the story work? I could imagine readers having varied reactions to this novel and therefore sharing an interesting discussion about it.

There are some lovely passages; one in particular I liked was this, describing Annelie's curiosity about the Berry as she anticipates uncovering his writing: 'She would be hoping that small fictions and understated truths were there for her to find. She would be fancying the image of the writer's hands, like those of an illusionist's, revealing to her all manner of things invisible before.'

For me this is the work of an inventive and talented writer who has taken a chance and is unafraid to challenge the reader's expectations with the unconventional style and structure of his storytelling here. As I've said, it was quite different from a lot of what I read and I liked the challenge and uniqueness of it. I think I'd like to read it again one day and see what else I discover, and the short length of the book encourages me to do this as does the attractiveness of the edition.

I would certainly try more fiction by this author and after reading this book I would be interested to see what approach he takes to his future works.

Published by Legend Press

Sleeping Patterns was the winner of the 2011 Luke Bitmead Bursary.

Here's a link to a great review of Sleeping Patterns on Vishy's Blog

Thank you to the author for kindly sending me a copy of this novel to read and review.

You can find the author on twitter @JRCrookkk and visit his website here.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like such a quirky read. Quite brave of the author to choose such an unconventional way of writing I think.


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