Today’s my stop on the Sleepless tour. I don’t take part in many blog tours because I’m a very picky reader but this is one I couldn’t resist. Romy Hausmann’s first book Dear Child was one of my favourite reads last year (you can read my review here) so when the Quercus offered me the chance to read an advance copy of Sleepless, I jumped at it.
It’s been years since Nadja Kulka was convicted of a horrific crime. After her release from prison she wanted nothing more than to live a normal life: nice flat, steady job, a few friends. But when one of those friends, Laura van Hoven, free-spirited beauty and wife of Nadja’s boss, kills her lover and begs Nadja for help, Nadja finds she is unable to refuse.
The two women make for a remote house in the woods, the perfect place to bury the body. But their plan quickly falls apart. Nadja finds herself outplayed, a pawn in a bizarre game in which she is both the perfect victim and the perfect murderer. Dark secrets past and present collide in this haunting novel of guilt and retribution from the internationally bestselling author of Dear Child.
I could review this book in one word: wow!
Although it took me a little while to grasp who was who and how these characters connected, I was sucked in and intrigued from the start. The story’s beautifully written with vivid, powerful imagery and the translation from German to English is excellent. I shared the sense of bewilderment with the characters and loved the way the layers were gradually peeled back until the truth was revealed. It’s an ingenious plot, full of suspicion, fragmented memories, tricks and traps. As one of the characters says,
“Life itself is a game in which there are winners and losers.”
Nadja, the main character, has had an abusive childhood full of “dirt, shouting, blood and wasted chances” in a flat that wasn’t a home. An unwanted child without a father, she was neglected and resented by her mother whose dream of being a dancer came crashing down when she found herself pregnant, forcing her to turn to prostitution and leaving Nadja to act as parent to little brother Janek. Marta’s absence of maternal instinct meant the children were never allowed to call her Mum. At fifteen Nadja was found guilty of her mother’s murder and imprisoned for seven years but her disjointed memories and dissociative experiences suggest the situation was more complicated. At thirty-five, she’s been given a second chance and is working in a law firm where her boss is married to her friend Laura. When Laura asks for her help the story takes a bizarre, very dark turn and the tension piles on until the breath-taking end.
I had so much sympathy for Nadja despite the shocking revelations because she was trying so hard to get her life back on track, although she carries her guilt with her “like an incurable disease”. She works hard, attends therapy sessions and tries to make sense of her past, or as she puts it make it to “to the centre of the earth, the core of the story.”
The setting for the remote house was perfect – the Spreewald area of forest and labyrinthine waterways near Berlin that was, according to legend, created by accident by the devil.
Sleepless is a complex but compelling thriller which I highly recommend to anyone who loves dark stories featuring mind games – just don’t blame me if it keeps you awake all night!
It’s published today by Quercus and available here
Thanks to the publisher for an advance copy which has in no way influenced my opinion.
About the author
Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR in 1981. At the age of 24 she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son, Romy has been working as a freelancer in TV. She lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.
To find out what other bloggers are saying about this book, check out the other blog stops below.