Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

Posted On 31 March 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : I liked it a lot


I’m always indescribably happy when I see that SP has a new book.  I’ve followed her work for a while now and really enjoy her writing.  To put the cat among the pigeons I would say that not only did I like Insomnia but I liked it more than Behind Her Eyes.  It’s a perfect jumble of crazy mixed up, spiralling out of control, sleepless insanity.  Every time I thought I had a handle on what was going on it turned out I was wrong and I just love the way that the ending is totally out there – let’s just say #wtfthatending – in fact maybe that hashtag will apply for all SP’s books.

To be fair, if you’ve read Pinborough you’ll be aware that her books often wander into strange territory, tales of the unexpected if you like.  There are usually elements of magical realism that surface as the book progresses but this is usually coupled with such a straightforward and contemporary style that it’s always a surprise.

Insomnia starts with Emma Averell approaching her 40th birthday.  Lots of people approach the big 4-oh with a little bit of trepidation but in Emma’s case this is exacerbated by events from her past.

Emma has an almost picture postcard existence.  A successful career, a loving-stay-at-home husband, two lovely children, a gorgeous house and an impending partnership.  Things are looking peachy until a few days before her birthday she wakes in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. I’m not going to discuss the plot any further because this is a book that is probably best explored with no knowledge beforehand.

Why did I like this book.

Well, firstly it’s deceptive.  When I first picked this up I thought I knew what was going on, but I really didn’t.  You need a level of patience here because as Emma’s sleepless nights continue her grip on reality begins to crumble.  She reflects on things from the past, particularly when people she hasn’t seen for years show up. And then the cracks start to appear.  Maybe Emma’s life isn’t as perfect as it first appeared.

Secondly, it’s frustrating, repetitive and mind bending in the best ways possible.  Here is a woman who thinks she’s going crazy.  Hell, I thought she was going crazy at many points during the story.  It’s an acknowledgement to the power of sleep and that period of restoration that your brain needs to function in a productive way.  I veered between perplexed, annoyed and flummoxed.  Why has Emma’ s life suddenly gone so haywire, why weren’t her family more supportive and what was going on at night when she completely lost periods of time – scary.

On top of this there are a few characters who dip in and out and Pinborough manages to paint them all in differing shades of suspicion.  The husband, does he resent his wife’s success?  The neighbours and the possibility of affairs.  Emma’s sister appearing out of the blue?  The client’s ex.  Even (especially) Emma.

For me, the best part of this novel is that I felt immersed in Emma’s world.  I was going slightly crazy myself and i don’t mean simply because I was staying up too late to function, I wanted to shake Emma, come on woman, snap out of it, pull yourself together.  Stop doing things that make you look insane.  But then, maybe she is insane!  She’s a hot mess of fear to put it bluntly.  She doesn’t know if she’s following in her mother’s footsteps, she doesn’t know if she’s a danger to her family, she doesn’t know if she’s committed terrible acts, she doesn’t know if somebody else has committed these terrible acts and, like Emma, I didn’t know either and it was driving me a little crazy too.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I’m not sure that the eventual reveal will wow everyone.  It takes something of a leap but it was a leap that was easy for me to take so not a criticism so much as a ‘be aware’.

I found Insomnia an easy book to read.  It took me through plenty of emotions along the way not least of all my extreme happiness that I can fall asleep at night.  A twisty thriller with plenty of tension, well written and easy to conjure in the mind’s eye.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars


10 Responses to “Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Pinborough is quite masterful when she keeps deceiving her readers, so I believe I will enjoy this new book for this element alone, although the story sounds equally intriguing if a bit “too close to home” since I do suffer from insomnia now and then…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      What I liked about this is she manages to make you feel a little crazy almost whilst reading, as the main character seems to be getting more and more tired.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    This sounds so good. I’m behind with her books and I really love her wtf endings! I’ll have to remember this for when my book pile is a little smaller😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      I do like her books and this one just worked well for me.
      Lynn 😀

  3. confessionsofayareader

    This one sounds really good. Great review!

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    HOLY CRAP I AM SO EXCITED! Pinborough always delivers, I’m so happy to see you enjoyed it so much. I should have an audio copy hitting my inbox soon.

    • @lynnsbooks

      This one worked really well for me and was a very quick read. One of those stories where you can feel the hysteria rising and getting out of control.
      Lynn 😀

  5. pagesandtea

    Not sure I’ve read anything by this author, but I did watch the tv series of Behind Her Eyes and thought it was quite good.
    Glad you enjoyed this 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I preferred the book but I thought the series was well made – although perhaps a little too drawn out.
      Lynn 😀

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