Helen Walsh certainly doesn't shy away from writing about difficult subject matters. I read The Lemon Grove last month and liked it, and I remembered I had Go To Sleep on my Kindle. I bought it before I had my baby (now 6 months) but I think if I had read it then I just wouldn't have got it.
Rachel Massey is pregnant at the start of the book. After a traumatic birth she becomes single mother to baby Joe. But Joe doesn't sleep well and Rachel quickly becomes exhausted and starts hallucinating. She finds Joe so hard to cope with.
I identified with quite a bit of this novel and found myself highlighting bits on my Kindle. I felt a lot of sympathy for Rachel but it was hard to read about some of her actions. Something happens towards the end of the book that gave me such a sense of foreboding and brought tears to my eyes. This is an excellent read, very well-written and about a difficult and emotional subject matter. Perhaps this should be read alongside parenting manuals to show that life isn't lived according to textbooks.
on 6 July 2011
I bought this because my wife and I had a nightmare time with our first child who didn't sleep more than 2 hours until he was three. I was hoping it would help me understand a bit more why we both just fell apart and we were lucky to have any relationship left to rebuild.
And the book did help. It looks into all the dark corners of the post natal soul and puts it all out there. Incredibly painful... and with absolute truth.
On top of all that it's beautifully written. A much needed triumph.
on 18 July 2011
Helen Walsh is a writer who elicits genuine excitement with each new novel. Having devoured Brass and Once Upon a Time in England, I was eager to pick up Go To Sleep. Having heard Walsh on Radio Four, and an appearance on This Morning following her piece in The Times, I was intrigued to discover her new work dealt with sleep deprivation, specifically relating to the experience of parenting.
As a fan of Walsh's work, I wondered if this topic would compromise her former prowess in weaving dark, fearless tales of the subterranean. This novel is amazing. As one can expect with Walsh's writing, I was initiated from the first page. What follows is a helter skelter ride into the recesses of mental and emotional exhaustion. Rachel, our protagonist, gives us an unflinching confessional of her own limitations. Her love for her baby son, Joe, urges her on, yet, isolated and intimidated by the demands of early motherhood, I found myself speeding through each chapter.
Walsh's unique voice is never compromised. Brave, bold and beautiful, this story unmistakably belongs to the Walsh canon. If you have yet to discover her work, you are in for a revelation. Walsh lends authenticity to relevant, commercial matter with a sharp, insightful gaze and a literary talent which is a pleasure to read.
Most importantly, Walsh has broken down the barricades surrounding preconceived notions of motherhood. An honest, unflinching account which lends voice to legions of new mothers who desperately need to be heard. In a culture which measures post-natal success by the size of it's skinny jeans, Walsh has once again succeeded in presenting us with an original and intelligent counterpoint. Another triumph. Thank you, Ms. Walsh!
on 14 July 2011
Helen Walsh is one of those writers who manages to grab you from the first page and keeps hold of you long after you have finished her books. I didn't think she would be able to top 'Once Upon A Time In England' (an absolutely stunning book where I fell in love with every character), but I think she's done it here with the incredibly powerful 'Go To Sleep'. As with 'Brass', this book is at times brutally honest and shocking; Walsh is a brave writer whose work is all the better for this.
Rachel's journey down into deep depression and despair after the birth of her baby was compelling and the ending had me crying my eyes out!!! Hopefully this book will do its bit in making society sit up and take notice about a topic that is often ignored, despite how common it is.
A brilliant, gripping read.
on 8 July 2011
As shocking as you think this book may be, if you are a mother you been there
This took me back when I wanted desperately to be in control. No amount of classes or books prepares you for the enormity of motherhood. Worse still for Rachel she is single professional and intelligent, thinking this will be easy and she cannot wait for her bundle of joy.
There is no father to support her and to help her through what is a nightmare, and at the time going through post natal depression (PND) you are in a black cloud and nothing prepares you for this or the day to day monotony of the first few weeks at home with a child that will not stop crying.
This is about chronic sleep depravation, but Rachel has a deep love for her son, but this little boy is foreign to her and the readers desperate need to hug her and tell her its ok it will get better.
All too often women try to hide this and shy away from talking about it- its real and needs to be brought out into the open.
When Rachel gets pregnant and decides on single motherhood, she knows she's taking a big step. But she's not prepared for the trauma of an early labour, a difficult delivery and the days afterwards where her little son won't stop crying, and she can't sleep - at all! As her mind begins to freewheel, she begins to brood on the past - her mother's death, her relationship with her son Joe's father (her first love, and years later a very passionate one-night stand), her difficult but loving relationship with her father Richard and her ambivalence about her stepmother Jan - while longing more and more for rest, and increasingly fretting about her mothering abilities. Too proud to really ask for help, Rachel soon finds herself inhabiting an increasingly strange, sleep-deprived world.
As someone who doesn't have children, I may not have been the target audience for this book - but I still found it very moving and involving. Walsh is extremely brave to write about the more traumatic end of post-natal depression, including hallucinations and hysteria, and she does it in a convincing and un-melodramatic way. She also explores the other elements of Rachel's life sensitively. Rachel's gradual acceptance of Jan, and her growing openness with her father (the scene where he finally makes her realize that he's proud of her was incredibly moving) were beautifully captured, as were her memories of her adolescence and her closeness to her dead mother. I also liked the bits about Rachel's career as a social worker, and the descriptions of her local area were beautiful. If I had a criticism, it was that Reuben, Rachel's one-time lover, remained a somewhat shadowy figure, and I don't think Walsh explored enough the issue of Rachel not letting him know about his son (a very difficult call, which didn't seem to preoccupy her enough). But it could be that Walsh felt that too much exploration of the Rachel/Reuben story might have lessened the impact of the main story of Rachel and her son. Other than that it all came to an end a bit abruptly - but again, with such a hard-hitting topic this might have been inevitable.
This is not an easy read, and Rachel is not a universally sympathetic character. But it is a brave, well-written and thought-provoking book, in which one always cares about the heroine. I'd definitely read more by this author.
on 15 August 2013
I loved this book from start to finish. Bonded with the character, great insight into motherhood and mental illness without being too depressing. Understood how she felt and had a few laughs along the way. Totally recommend this book.
on 2 November 2014
I was there with Rachel every step of the way .
The unrequited love for the man yet the passion that evokes makes you believe that his denial can't be true .
The love of your baby , yet there's conflict . You think you love so unconditionally and you don't because your own failure to have a baby that is content is your fault .
Any what is worse is that the words that come out if your mouth , the feelings you have and the actions you of aren't yours
on 4 July 2011
Rachel's story is so real that I could have actually been living it myself! Reading about Rachel took me straight back to my memories of finding out I was pregnant the feeling of excitement mixed with dread, how was I going to look after a baby at such a young age?
When Rachel gave birth and then the aftermath on the maternity ward, Helen Walsh managed to make me remember feelings, sounds and smells, I honestly don't know how she has managed to stir these feelings up?
The book has covered Post Natal Depression in a brutal yet honest way. I think too many new mothers are frightened to admit there is a problem and pretend that everything is fine to their family and friends, Helen Walsh has written about the subject in a way that highlights the problem and makes the reader really believe this is happening to a friend or someone you care about which of course it does to thousands of new mothers every day.
Although it's obvious that Rachel loves her son she finds him alien to her, feeling that it's him who is rejecting her. Rachel is a strong woman and does not want those close to her to think she can't cope, not realising that it's obvious that she isn't coping.
Rachel's downward spiral into the dark depths of depression are upsetting and as a reader you just want to reach out to her, give her a hug and tell her everything will be ok.
As a first time mother I felt Rachel's feelings of helplessness, not wanting anyone to think of me as a bad mother. Those first few weeks of no sleep at all is gruelling, none of the parenting books tell you about how to cope on 1-2 hours a night and what to do if your baby cries from morning till night, no one tells Rachel how to cope either and she doesn't want to listen to those who do offer a helping hand as her depression has taken over.
I honestly believe that this book will be a fantastic help to expectant and new mothers alike as it proves there is nothing to be ashamed of if you don't feel that instant bond. I don't usually read books like this but I finished it in two nights as I could not put the book down.
Go to sleep is an unforgettable book and although painful to read at some points it had me going from being almost in tears to being so happy for Rachel. It is a must read!
on 24 August 2012
When a one night stand with an ex leaves Rachel pregnant, she decides to go ahead and have the baby by herself. She is a strong, independent woman, she will be a great mother. But as the sleepless hours tick by, she starts to resent baby Joe. Why won't he just go to sleep?
Go To Sleep is an incredibly honest look at the stress a baby can put a woman under. Determined to cope by herself, Rachel shuts everyone else out but soon she finds how difficult things are when she has to do every little thing with a small, crying person in tow. Without support, she gets less and less sleep and the stress starts to get to her. She's not bonding with Joe and she wishes there were something wrong with him that can be fixed. As she starts to unravel, the tension mounts and it's a real page-turner despite the fact that not a lot really happens.
Rachel works as a social worker in Liverpool and I really liked this side of the story too. We only see a little bit of her working life before the birth but it is something she just can't let go of. Her kids need her and whilst she is not in a position to be rescuing them, I admire her for it. I guess it's easier for her to help them than help herself. It also highlights some of the racial tensions of the area. Joe is mixed race and Rachel suspects her father of being racist, of disapproving of her ex and shutting him out.
If I was under any doubt as to not having children, this book would be a great reminder why they are not all sunshine and roses. Women who think a baby will "fix things" should certainly read it! I'm not a huge fan of books focusing on new mothers, as they tend to be a bit sentimental or imply motherhood is the sole purpose in life for the characters, but this couldn't be further from that. I did find the chapters covering her labour a bit much although I am sure they are more realistic than any other novel. Yes, chapters, and it's hard for her. I read in disbelief as the hospital turned her away again and again, but I imagine busy, city-centre hospitals have to work that way. Perhaps mothers will appreciate the reality check. It's not a bit of deep breathing and out they pop!