The House of Sleep – Jonathan Coe

The House of Sleep is one of Jonathan Coe’s rather strange novels written in 1997. As a person who ponders a lot about sleep, the book’s subject caught my attention immediately, and I thought it was time to read it because one of my friends also loves the book. And I’m glad I did; Jonathan Coe is one of the writers that surprised me.


The House of Sleep is one of the novels that should be read without a break. Its cleverly constructed, complex structure demands the reader’s constant attention. It is necessary to follow the characters closely. While reading the novel, I felt like I was being dragged in a fast-flowing river towards the shocking ending. Because you understand very clearly that at the end of the book, there will be something that will blow you away. The author fulfils this expectation properly. Sleep and wakefulness, characters and story intertwine so skillfully that one can’t help but wonder what will happen in the end after a while.

The House of Sleep - Jonathan Coe

The House of Sleep is not one of those novels that add a lot to one’s literature. However, if you are interested in the subject of sleep and insomnia, if you are after reading a masterfully fictionalized novel, I think you will love it. Each character is unique enough to interest you; Some have problems with sleep, some with their gender.

The House of Sleep is full of different characters who lie, have secrets, cannot find love, and are addicted to strange films. However, as I mentioned before, I cannot strongly recommend it since it does not have much depth in terms of literature. If there is a period when you cannot sleep, then The House of Sleep can be a good choice. Enjoy!

The House of Sleep - Jonathan Coe

The House of Sleep

The House of Sleep: Like a surreal and highly caffeinated version of The Big Chill, Jonathan Coe’s new novel follows four students who knew each other in college in the eighties. Sarah is a narcoleptic who has dreams so vivid she mistakes them for real events. Robert has his life changed forever by the misunderstandings that arise from her condition. Terry spends his wakeful nights fueling his obsession with movies. And an increasingly unstable doctor, Gregory, sees sleep as a life-shortening disease which he must eradicate.

But after ten years of fretful slumber and dreams gone bad, the four reunite in their college town to confront their disorders. In a Gothic cliffside manor being used as a clinic for sleep disorders, they discover that neither love, nor lunacy, nor obsession ever rests.

Winner of the 1998 Prix Médicis Étranger, The House of Sleep is an intensely moving and frequently hilarious novel about love, obsession and sleep.

‘Moving, clever, pleasurable, smart…one of the best books of the year’ Malcolm Bradbury, The Times

‘There are bits that make you laugh out loud and others that make your heart ache’ Guardian

‘Fiercely clever, witty, wise, hopeful… The House of Sleep is a compellingly beautiful tale of love and loss’ The Times Literary Supplement

Jonathan Coe’s novels are filled with biting political satire, moving and astute observations of life and hilarious set pieces that have made him one of the most popular writers of his generation. His other titles, The Accidental WomanThe Rotters’ Club (winner of the Everyman Wodehouse prize), The Closed CircleThe Dwarves of DeathWhat a Carve Up! (winner of the 1995 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize) and The Rain Before it Falls, are all available as Penguin paperback.

Jonathan Coe

Jonathan Coe was born on 19 August 1961 in Lickey, a suburb of south-west Birmingham. His first surviving story, a detective thriller called The Castle of Mystery, was written at the age of eight. The first few pages of this story appear in his novel What a Carve Up!.

He continued writing fiction throughout his schooldays, his three years at Trinity College, Cambridge and his postgraduate years at Warwick University where he was awarded a doctorate for his thesis on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. While working on this thesis he also completed The Accidental Woman, the first of his novels to be published.

In the late 1980s he moved to London to pursue his literary and musical enthusiasms, writing songs for his short-lived band The Peer Group and a feminist cabaret group called Wanda and the Willy Warmers. The Accidental Woman was published in April, 1987, and was followed by A Touch of Love (1989) and The Dwarves of Death (1990), but it was not until the publication of his fourth novel, What a Carve Up! that he began to reach a wider audience. It became his first international success, with translations in sixteen languages.

It was followed by The House of Sleep (1997), and then The Rotters’ Club (2001) and its sequel The Closed Circle (2004). The Rotters’ Club was adapted as a BBC TV series in 2005, scripted by two of his boyhood heroes, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, creators of Porridge and The Likely Lads. Also in 2004, he published Like a Fiery Elephant, a biography of the British experimental novelist B S Johnson, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for best non-fiction book of the year.

The Rain Before It Falls (2007) marked a move away from his trademark humour and political satire, while The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim (2010) was a comedy about loneliness and disconnection in the social media age. Especially popular in France, this novel was later filmed as La vie très privée de M. Sim.

It was followed by Expo 58 (2013), a comedy-thriller set against a background of Cold War espionage, and Number 11 (2015), a sequel of sorts to What a Carve Up!. In his latest novel Middle England (2018), the characters of The Rotters’ Club and The Closed Circle return to navigate the choppy waters of British life in the years before and immediately after the Brexit referendum. It has been described by the author and journalist Sathnam Sanghera as ‘the first great Brexit novel’.

His work has received many prizes and awards, including both Costa Novel of the Year and Prix du Livre Européen for Middle England. In France he won the Prix Médicis for The House of Sleep and has been appointed Officier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres. In Italy he has also won the Premio Flaiano (for Number 11) and the Premio Bauer-Ca’ Foscari. The citation for the latter prize concluded that ‘for his keen interest in the most crucial issues of contemporary civilization, Jonathan Coe may be considered a complete novelist and a classic of our times’.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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