The House of Sleep


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First published: 1997

Print ISBN: 9780241967744

Price: £8.99

The House of Sleep


This novel arose from the combination of two separate ideas. One was an idea for a dark comedy, about a man who falls so deeply in love with a gay woman that he is prepared to do anything to win her affection. The other was an idea for a story about a group of patients at a clinic for the treatment of sleep disorders. Eventually I realised I could combine these ideas, and that the link between them should be a building – a house, standing on the edge of a cliff beside the ocean, which in the first of the novel’s time-frames would be used as accommodation for a group of students, and in the second as a sleep clinic.

In the light of this, it might seem that The House of Sleep would be an obvious choice of title for the novel from the very beginning. In fact I had several other working titles. The first one was Dreams Wide Awake, after the tune by Phil Miller from the National Health album Of Queues and Cures. Then I thought of using Dreams So Real, which is the title of a beautiful song by Carla Bley, and would have been very appropriate for Sarah and her vivid narcoleptic delusions. Finally I decided to call it Somniloquy, after the poem near the end of the novel. It was my editor at Penguin who very sensibly decided that The House of Sleep was actually the best title. (Though of course it isn’t really mine – it’s ‘stolen’ from the book by Frank King.)

The sonnet at the end of the novel has been set to music by Danny Manners, and you can hear his version sung by Louis Philippe on the album 9th and 13th. You can listen to it here on Spotify.

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