In 2016, Samantha Harvey began to lose sleep. She tried everything to appease her wakefulness: from medication to therapy, changes in her diet to changes in her living arrangements. Nothing seemed to help.
The Shapeless Unease is Harvey’s darkly funny and deeply intelligent anatomy of her insomnia, an immersive interior monologue of a year without one of the most basic human needs. Original and profound, and narrated with a lucid breathlessness, this is a startlingly insightful exploration of memory, writing and influence, death and the will to survive, from “this generation’s Virginia Woolf” (Telegraph).
This has been an incredibly difficult book for me to rate because, although I can tell the concept and writing is quite brilliant, it just wasn’t my taste.
I was initially drawn to the stunning cover art, and then when I read that it was about insomnia I was instantly hooked as I have been medically diagnosed with that myself. But although I certainly relate to the nocturnal mind wandering, which does indeed take me to some weird places, mine is of such a different nature that I couldn’t relate to this book. One passage describing the post mortem breaking down of her cousin’s body after burial was a little too detailed for me. Perhaps I’m more squeamish than I thought!
I’ve gone for the middle road in my rating because, although this book isn’t for me, I think it may be perfect for others.