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Night Waking (2011)

by Sarah Moss

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2291392,558 (3.88)70
The discovery of a baby's skeleton on a remote Scottish island unearths long-buried secrets in this darkly comic, atmospheric novel from the author of the acclaimed 'Cold Earth'.
  1. 10
    The Standing Pool by Adam Thorpe (alalba)
    alalba: In both novels a couple of academics with young children decide to move to a remote place to work on their research. In both there is a degree of 'mystery' involved.
  2. 10
    Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (chazzard)
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English (10)  Dutch (3)  All languages (13)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I'm a little embarrassed, but I'm going to differ with the bulk of LT and say I didn't particularly enjoy this novel by [[Sarah Moss]]. It's written very well and has an interested double plot line, but the modern-day characters really grated on me.

The plot centers around a family that goes to stay on their family island off the coast of Scotland where Giles, the husband, is researching puffins and Anna, the wife, is writing a book. They have two young children and Anna is overwhelmed with trying to balance her work life with her life as a mother. This is familiar to me as a working mom, and I'm sympathetic, but Anna drives me nuts. She's not getting any sleep, but she's also not insisting on any help from her husband. She's not breastfeeding an infant (something admittedly hard to pass off on dad), the kids waking her up are 7 and probably 2. Just wake up your husband and make him take a turn already! I just could not stop thinking about [Invisible Women], the nonfiction book I recently read that talks a lot about the unpaid care work that women are expected to do. Anyway, Anna starts demanding more equal distribution of work at home by the end, but the beginning was so maddening that [[Sarah Moss]] kind of lost me.

Back to the plot . . . the family discovers the bones of baby while planting some trees and the mystery of this baby leads to discoveries about the island's history and Giles's ancestors. I liked all of this and thought it came together nicely, but it just wasn't enough to make up for my annoyance at the beginning. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Oct 19, 2021 |
It took me a little while to get into this, particularly since the main character is sort of frustratingly annoying and whiny, but once I did, I enjoyed it a great deal, and figuring out how the plot threads would come together made for a good read. ( )
  JBD1 | May 9, 2021 |
3.5 stars ( )
  snakes6 | Aug 25, 2020 |
When I reviewed Moss's 'The Tidal Zone' I commented: "I found both daughters, but especially the teenager, just a little too precocious to be believable". This book, which pre-dates The Tidal Zone, is even more problematic in that regard. There are two sons in Night Waking, and the older son is unbelievably precocious. The younger is also older than his years but is so aggravatingly demanding that I couldn't help but focus on this aspect of his behaviour. In fact, I almost gave up reading when I was about half way through, because these two boys were just too painful to encounter. That's Moss's skill as a writer though - to draw the reader into the emotions of the situation. The book has many themes running through it, and one of them is parenting. The parenting of these two boys by the main character, Anna, and her partner, Giles, is a focus for much of the book, but is thrown into contrast by the parenting shown by a visiting mother with her anorexic teenager. Both mothers can see the faults of the other but are too emotionally involved in their own family to be able to stand back and see how they could manage better. In the case of Anna - and also the other mother - the relationship to the father of the children is a very complicating factor. I think Moss writes marriage relationships exceptionally well, and the way this marriage relationship develops over the course of the book was the main interest for me. I have a lot of admiration for Sarah Moss - she's clearly a very clever person and there's a lot of depth in this story. History and sociology feature prominently, and I reckon she must do a lot of in depth research to get her story setting right. She's very much an academic at heart, but she knows how to engage readers at an emotional level. ( )
1 vote oldblack | Oct 10, 2017 |
I wasn't sure that I was going to like this book after I read the first few chapters. Anna didn't seem like a very attractive character & the alternating chapters of late Victorian letters broke up the flow of the story. However, by the middle of the book I was drawn into life on the Hebridean island of Colsay (both past & present). By the end, the format of the book made sense and the Victorian letters, Anna's current life and her research into the death of a young girl during WW2 formed an intricately twined tripartite view of life of women & children over the years, highlighted by Anna's scholarly work on children and parenting that she is desperately trying to complete in her few snatched minutes of privacy. ( )
  leslie.98 | Mar 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
She continues, too, to thread historical research into her fiction in a way that is fresh and illuminating. If, as historian Anna insists, "there is no story in the muddle and pain of real life . . . only a twisted familiarity", it is territory as perilous as any far-flung archipelago, and Moss is a wry, winning guide.
 
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The swans are by the shore, drifting bright as paper cut-outs against waves blurred by dusk.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The discovery of a baby's skeleton on a remote Scottish island unearths long-buried secrets in this darkly comic, atmospheric novel from the author of the acclaimed 'Cold Earth'.

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Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently-absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby's skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women's vexed and passionate relationship with work. Moss's second novel displays an exciting expansion of her range - showing her to be both an excellent comic writer, and a novelist of great emotional depth.
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