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About the book
  • Published: 9 January 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473572713
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 192

The Shapeless Unease

A Year of Not Sleeping




A poignant, urgent memoir about insomnia; the non-fiction debut by one of our finest novelists

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.

  • Pub date: 9 January 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473572713
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 192

About the Author

Samantha Harvey

Samantha Harvey is the author of The Wilderness, All Is Song and Dear Thief. She appeared on the longlists for the Bailey’s Prize and the Man Booker, and the shortlists of the James Tait Black Award, the Orange Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. The Wilderness won the Betty Trask Award in 2009. She is a tutor on the MA course in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

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Praise for The Shapeless Unease

“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

“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. Reading it feels like its own kind of lucid dream … You would imagine a book written in such circumstances would have a hazy quality, but in fact its clarity of expression is startling. It's a fireworks display. It's also a profound meditation on language and loss and time, and on how we construct ourselves through stories. And it's painful. And it's beautiful. And I love it. Samantha Harvey is the most exceptionally gifted of authors, and here she demonstrates that she can literally do anything.”

Nathan Filer

“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

“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

“I am still shuddering, almost, from the beautiful, beautiful writing and its broken, angry, vibrant demand – a dare almost – to accept life, and brave it, with all it brings.”

Cynan Jones

“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.”

Andrew Miller


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