The Shapeless Unease
A Year of Not Sleepingby Samantha Harvey
A genre-defying debut memoir of insomnia by Betty Trask Prize-winner and one of our most singular stylists, Samantha Harvey
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 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
“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)