Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Shapeless Unease

A Year of Not Sleeping

by Samantha Harvey

A genre-defying debut memoir of insomnia by Betty Trask Prize-winner and one of our most singular stylists, Samantha Harvey

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 192
  • Publication Date May 18, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4883-4
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 192
  • Publication Date May 12, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4882-7
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.25"
  • US List Price $24.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date May 12, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4884-1
  • US List Price $24.00

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).

Praise for The Shapeless Unease:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month (Biography and Memoir)

“To read Harvey is to grow spoiled on gorgeous phrases; she’s an author you want to encounter with pencil in hand.”—Katy Waldman, New Yorker

“Both cools and warms, lofts and lulls, settling gradually on its inhabitant with an ethereal solidity.”—New York Times Book Review 

“So exquisitely written it’s a challenge to review, as there is an impulse to quote nearly every precise, stylized line. Her chronicle of morality, mortality and memory is adept at capturing the ineffable reservations with—and appreciation for—being alive.”—Newsday

“Harvey captures the gravity of her affliction, while  also maintaining levity and grace. Her forays offer an engrossing vision of how our lives are knit together—day to day, night to night, and thought to thought.”—“Briefly Noted,” New Yorker

“[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

“An 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

“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

“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

“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 the Booker Prize-nominated Everything Under

“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

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)