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Sleep, Pale Sister [Paperback]

Joanne Harris
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

1 Sep 2004

Sleep, Pale Sister, a powerful, atmospheric and blackly gothic evocation of Victorian artistic life, was originally published before Joanne Harris achieved worldwide recognition with Chocolat.

Henry Chester, a domineering and puritanical Victorian artist, is in search of the perfect model. In nine-year-old Effie he finds her.

Ten years later, lovely, childlike and sedated, Effie seems the ideal wife. But something inside her is about to awaken.

Drawn into a dangerous underworld of prostitution, murder and blackmail, she must finally plan her revenge.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 393 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552771783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552771788
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 178,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French author, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. She has also written a DR WHO novella for the BBC, has scripted guest episodes for the game ZOMBIES, RUN!, and is currently engaged in a number of musical theatre projects as well as developing an original drama for television.
In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.
Her hobbies are listed in Who's Who as 'mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion'. She also spends too much time on Twitter; plays flute and bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16; and works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire.

Photo © Kyte photography

Product Description


"A hauntingly evocative laudanum-dream of a novel" (Time Out)

Book Description

The reissue of Joanne Harris's second novel, a consuming Gothic tale set in 19th century London

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
96 of 100 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deep, dark and disturbing 28 Dec 2004
Published before Joanne Harris became famous, this work is the darkest of hers yet.
I wonder if she lightened up her style to be more commercial, as this bears little resemblance to Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters... or Chocolat.
In brief, before going any further, I rate this the best book she has written.
In more detail, then:
Told from the point of view of multiple narrators, (a style Irvine Welsh has excelled in) two of them men (and very convincing they are, too. I found myself checking the title page to reassure myself this was a Joanne Harris novel, so thoroughly masculine were the male characters' voices) the plot, in its complexity and bleak darkness, while not in voice, language or period, could be measured against an Irvine Welsh story.
Set in Victorian England, it tells the story of a wealthy middle aged painter who marries a beautiful girl of seventen whom he has been grooming (shades of Moliere's Ecole de Femmes here) since she was eleven.
He has a murky, shameful past, however, and it is going to catch up with him, through the hands of a bohemian woman with mystical powers and a Byron-esque fellow painter with dishonourable designs on his ethereally beautiful wife.
The pace picks up at a constant rate throughout the book, so the reader is galloping along and defying anyone to interrupt as s/he approaches the denouement.
Love, obsession, sex, dark magic, hypocrisy, murder and death in general drive the plot along.
Buy it, borrow it,steal it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
When I started Sleep Pale Sister it took me a while to get into it - it felt like it might be one of those books that trys to be arty for art's sake...

2 chapters in and I was hooked and completely wrong - it's just that Henry's character in the book is so bizarre that in reading the first chapter (written in his voice)it can be a little worrying that the whole novel is going to continue in this narrative style.

I loved the characters - Joanne Harris is extremely talented in making 4 completely different narrative voices so real - every chapter is written from a different character and you very quickly get used to the 4 minds - there is no confusion and having to revisit previous pages to work out whos turn it is - you just feel their individual energy straight away and I love that style of writing!

I was reminded of Sarah Walters in this book - Affinity is my absolute favourite read - and the black magic and mystery draws you in so completely that you cannot put the book down (and when you do it is still very much with you in everything you do. The reason for only 4 stars in stead of 5 is purely down to the ending. If you have read Infinity you will know how cleverly the magic and mystery is explained at the end of the book, where this one still leaves you wondering and a little disappointed at the lack of a clean finish.

This is only my opinion - I love mystery for the reason that I enjoy seeing how the author returns to normality and order at the close of the story - so for me this left too many questions unanswered but many other readers would probably prefer to stay in that sense of unknowing and completely give themselves over to the escapism of reading.

I would definitely recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spooky and dark 8 July 2011
By K. Chan
A scary book to say the least. Tragedy, revenge and self-absorbtion rolled into the characters and how they reflect each other's designs to the others. Well written and the darkness keeps going until the last page.
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65 of 75 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a consuming Gothic novel by the author of Chocolat. What lies hidden in that later novel is brought to the fore here. Whilst Vianne Rocher has a love/hate relationship with the Tarot in Chocolat, the cards here form the divisions of the text, the stepping-stones we take to reach the conclusion. And it is possible to make a reading from these cards, unlike those of T. S. Elliot's Madame Sosostris.
Henry Paul Chester is a Victorian artist, the owner of a deadly secret, which goes to the very depth of his heart and art. Here we seem to be on traditional Gothic turf: that of James Hogg and his 'Confessions of a Justified Sinner', for Chester postulates that he may well have a secret double. Joanne Harris obeys the literary conventions of the early Gothic here by making Chester a Catholic - Matthew 'Monk' Lewis' Ambrosio removed from his Abbey and placed into the art world. He is just as repressed and far back in denial as Father Reynaud is in Chocolat. Then there's a touch of Sheridan Le Fanu too, with the distressed maiden taking liberal doses of laudanum. However, 'Sleep, Pale Sister' is not just homage to old fictions. Joanne Harris is an excellent storyteller, with a quite distinctive style. The tales of Le Fanu and Stoker may have had their powerful, exciting moments, but Harris outshines them all with her excellent technique.
Chester is obsessed with painting young, 'innocent' girls. Which leads him to spot the nine-year-old Effie in a park. For the price of a few shillings, Chester gets his perfect model. Effie becomes the star of a series of portraits of young, distressed children, such as 'The Little Beggar Girl'. After ten years, Chester marries his 'perfect' model, and this is precisely the moment when their relationship sours.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Joanne Harris never disappoints
I like the different narrative voices, giving alternative perspectives, The tension is gripping and kept going to the very end. I read it in one sitting!
Published 12 days ago by Gillian
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply dark and delicious
Second time I've read this and loved every minute. Truly a dark, ghostly and powerful read. One for the ladies I think . A real gothic page turner. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Emma Tyler
3.0 out of 5 stars Sleep, Pale Sister
This is the first novel by this author I have read. Broadly it tells the tale of Henry Chester, a Victorian artist who finds his muse in a young girl Effie, who he nurtures and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Keen Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Joanne Harris' take on Victorian Horror.
Joanne Harris' take on Victorian Horror. Have to say it's not my faveorite of her books, but it's the same standard we've come to expect of her.
Published 8 months ago by Lexi
3.0 out of 5 stars I prefer the later genre
I read reviews of this book with many saying this is better than those books that made her famous. It is good but not as mystical as her later books and the characters are not as... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark sinister tale
I could not put this book down but I found it a little too dark for my taste. Never the less, personal taste aside, I thought it was a real page-turner!
Published 13 months ago by Karen R. ford
4.0 out of 5 stars A very strange story from Amazon
I enjoyed this strange story from Joanne Harris. I am still not sure about the end but unlike some novels I did not skip to the end to find out what happened. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Mrs. Evelyn M. Weall
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit obscure
This is perhaps Joanne Harris's least well known novel. I enjoyed most of the book, and although I appreciate it was a Gothic novel, I did think the ending was most obscure. Read more
Published 22 months ago by JMD
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Romp in Victorian Art
With echoes of Pre-Raphaelite art, Sleep, Pale Sister is a mad piece of fiction with twists and turns, panto characters and dark, rum doings. Read more
Published on 10 Sep 2011 by Lily's Mum
5.0 out of 5 stars Very different but compelling
A long time fan of Joanne Harris, I was as surprised at the darkness of this novel as I was by its ending. Nontheless, a riveting read and one I highly recommend
Published on 20 May 2011 by Flappit Witch
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