Sleep, Pale Sister Paperback – 1 Sep 2004
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"A hauntingly evocative laudanum-dream of a novel" (Time Out)
The reissue of Joanne Harris's second novel, a consuming Gothic tale set in 19th century LondonSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.Read more ›
It features her usual blend of colorful characters (including the occasional spirit!) bound together by deep, and often dark, passion and magic.
Unusually, in this book she seems to have little sympathy for her characters - though I must admit that most of them really aren't all that likeable, the fact that even their creator can't sympathize with them or try to make some sort of excuse for them, makes them that much sadder.
I enjoyed reading it, but it's nowhere near one of her best works - I personally think she's at her best when writing about food, Chocolat being one of my all-time favorite books.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Different to Joanne Harris's other novels, gothic in tone, but kept me interested.Published 3 months ago by alexandra edwina gates
This was an absolutely riveting novel in some ways, but by the end, I felt slightly sickened by it and very confused as it strayed more and more into the supernatural.Published 5 months ago by Mrs. Jean D. Andrews
Not a typical Joanne Harris novel. Melodramatic - quite depressing at times and totally lacking the humour, wit and sparkle of her other books.Published 9 months ago by Em