The Shapeless Unease
‘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
Sleep. Sleep. Like money, you only think about it when you have too little. Then you think about it all the time, and the less you have the more you think about it. It becomes the prism through which you see the world and nothing can exist except in relation to it.
Samantha Harvey’s insomnia arrived, seemingly, from nowhere; for a year she has spent her nights chasing sleep that rarely comes. She’s tried everything to appease it. Nothing is helping.
What happens when one of the basic human needs goes unmet? For Samantha Harvey, extreme sleep deprivation resulted in a raw clarity about life itself. Original and profound, The Shapeless Unease is a startlingly insightful exploration of memory, writing and influence, death and grief, and the will to survive.
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 * 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 * The Shapeless Unease contains many beautiful and poignant passages about the human will to keep on living... [and] Harvey's imagery casts a spell. -- Johanna Thomas-Corr * The Times * The Shapeless Unease is a merciless and self-mocking memoir in which Harvey shows us the insomniac's universe of "edgeless expanse"... Writing should take us to places we wouldn't otherwise go, and Harvey invites us to open our eyes in the darkness and feel the tiger in the room. -- Frances Wilson * Daily Telegraph * Intricately intriguing... astonishing... [The Shapeless Unease is] a particular joy. It moves between topics with ease, and yet at its heart it is an emotional book... I haven't read a book which is quite as clear about being a writer. -- Stuart Kelly * Scotland on Sunday * Samantha Harvey's dazzling, dizzying trip through the nightmare world of the sleepless...[is a] wondrous little book... a treasure trove of material... The Shapeless Unease is also one of the best books you will find about swimming. And its wonders. -- Roger Alton * Daily Mail * Urgent and wild, but also dazzling in its precision. This is what it must be like to try to keep hold of a brilliant mind that is threatening to unspool... a dark, seductive book about fear and madness and their allure... Reading The Shapeless Unease can feel not unlike dipping into strange, unchartered waters: it is by turns bracing and soothing, with a dark undertow and glimmers of light at the surface, and one emerges from it with an altered perspective, a sense of time having slowed down. -- Sophie McBain * New Statesman * A delight to read... suffused with the sense of a timeless fable... ineffably rewarding. -- Colin Grant * Observer * [A] remarkable book... [The Shapeless Unease is] 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. -- Christina Patterson * Mail on Sunday *
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