The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping


Product Details

$24.00  $22.32
Grove Press
Publish Date
4.8 X 7.4 X 0.9 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

Samantha Harvey is the author of The Wilderness, All Is Song, Dear Thief, and The Western Wind. Her work has been longlisted for the Bailey's Prize and the Man Booker, and finalist for the James Tait Black Award, the Orange Prize, the Guardian First Book Award and the Walter Scott Prize. The Wilderness won the Betty Trask Award in 2009. She teaches Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.


Advance Praise for The Shapeless Unease

An Amazon Best Book of the Month
Named One of Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2020

"[A] profound, earthshaking memoir... This memoir churns deep in the soul. Here is a talented writer plumbing her personal experience as deeply as she can. The results are staggeringly beautiful." -- Shelf Awareness

"Sleeplessness gets the Susan Sontag illness-as-metaphor treatment in this pensive, compact, lyrical inquiry into the author's nighttime demons. An exquisitely rendered voyage into the "shapelessness of a life without sleep, where days merge unbounded."" --Kirkus

"[M]asterful and captivating... At once intensely personal and universal " --Booklist

"[A]n unmissable memoir of the restless depths of insomnia, and a lyrical new insight into the very essence of our lives." --Foyles

"The Shapeless Unease is a masterpiece, so good I can hardly breathe. I'm completely floored by it."--Helen Macdonald

'"What a spectacularly good book. It is so controlled and yet so wild. One of the best books I've read about writing. One of the best books I've read about swimming. One of the best books I've read about mourning. And easily one of the truest and best books I've read about what it's like to be alive now, in this country.' --Max Porter

"This book felt enormous to me, mercurial, devastating, seeming to grapple with the nature of everything in a manner so compelling it is impossible not to be swept along. A book to return to again and again."--Daisy Johnson, author of Booker Prize-nominated Everything Under

"An explosive wallop of a book and a glorious portrait of a beautiful mind. The Shapeless Unease is bright and electrifying, completely reasoned and wildly unhinged. Reading it, I feel on precipice-edge while also knowing I'm in the safest of intellectual hands." --Jamie Quatro

"'It's funny, sad, wry, always worrying away at the mystery of sleep and its absence and finding endless new angles so that the whole has something of the quality of those waking dreams that haunt the insomniac and are her private country. There's also something unrefined, raw and spontaneous about the writing that I found hugely appealing."--Andrew Miller

"The Shapeless Unease captures the essence of fractious emotions - anxiety, fear, grief, rage - in prose so elegant, so luminous, it practically shines from the page. Harvey is a hugely talented writer, and this is a book to relish." -- Sarah Waters

"How can a book about a sensual deprivation be so sensuous and so full? Gritty with particulars, concrete and substantial even when it is most philosophical and far-reaching. I loved reading it before I fell asleep every night - it seemed to give my sleep resonance and poetry. What a beautiful book."--Tessa Hadley

"A small miracle of a book. A profound meditation on language and loss and time, and on how we construct ourselves through stories. Sam Harvey is the most exceptionally gifted of authors, and here she demonstrates that she can literally do anything."--Nathan Filer

"I am still shuddering, almost, from the beautiful, beautiful writing and its broken, angry, vibrant demand - a dare almost - to accept life, and brave it, with all it brings." --Cynan Jones

"[A] raw and unsettling account of 12 months of inexplicable insomnia... And beautifully, if unsettlingly, Harvey captures the roiling exhaustion, the fuggy disbelief and irrational anger of this newly uncertain state when "the world becomes profoundly unsafe" and the boundaries between the inner and outer self start to blur... Readers looking for their own cure will instead find an erudite companion to help them through the dark times." --Sunday Times UK

"Poetic, visceral... The Shapeless Unease contains many beautiful and poignant passages about the human will to keep on living. Even in her most ragged moments [Harvey] can't help but exult in what Philip Larkin calls "the million-petalled flower of being here". Awake at 3am, she realises: "That's the trick of life -- it seems so abundant, and even while we're watching it die all around us it's whispering in our ears sweet nothings of plenitude." Harvey's imagery casts a spell." --The Times UK

"[A] patchwork quilt of conversations, memories, encounters and musings, the fruits of a mind so electrically alert that no drug seems to numb or quiet it... The lurching around from subject to subject, and from memory to memory, makes it feel as if we, too, are in Harvey's sleep-starved brain, wandering with her into existential dark woods and feeling the crackle of every synapse. It's an extraordinary journey, but it's also mesmerising. Harvey writes with hypnotic power and poetic precision about - well, about everything: grief, pain, memory, family, the night sky, a lake at sunset, what it means to dream and what it means to suffer and survive... The big surprise is that this book about 'shapeless unease' is, in the end, a glittering, playful and, yes, joyful celebration of that glorious gift of glorious life." --Daily Mail UK

"Although Harvey writes with a hefty dose of self-deprecating humour, she quickly makes it clear that insomnia is no laughing matter... She writes brilliantly about the sort of thoughts that plague the insomniac at night... Harvey's accounts of [GP] consultations, perhaps the best things in the book, are a masterly dramatization of the doctor-patient dynamic... [She] has certainly proved that insomnia, as much as any of the more obviously nasty diseases, might be as worth a subject of literature as love, battle or jealousy, and at its best, her book rises to that level." --Telegraph UK

Praise for Samantha Harvey:

"An intelligent and audacious writer."Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Writing of the highest quality."--Wall Street Journal

"One of the UK's most exquisite stylists."--Guardian

"Indubitably intelligent, Harvey's prose is also quite simply ravishing."--Telegraph "Harvey's writing is stunning."--The Times (UK)