The Sleepwalkers

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Pub Date 17 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 18 Mar 2024

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The scintillating new novel from the author of The End of Mr Y

Patricia Highsmith meets White Lotus in this compulsive and brilliant gothic thriller

One of the Daily Telegraph's '20 Best New Crime Thrillers to Read this Summer' 

‘Clever, emotionally resonant, packed with startling twists and dark turns and very funny indeed, this is fiction roaring on all cylinders.’ Guardian

“Gloriously dark and tangled . . . clever . . . I highly recommend it.” Observer

'A dark, twisty, savagely humorous plunge into a cauldron of toxic relationships . . . as well as a mystery loaded with menace, this is a smart, layered, stinging look at power and its abuse.' The Times

‘Through her bold storytelling, “The Sleepwalkers” becomes a work of peculiar, gonzo genius. … Thomas takes a glamorous late-capitalist setting, with rosé and catamarans, and shreds, twists and warps it into a story that is surprising, humane and political to its bones.’ New York Times

‘Thomas tells her story with the craft and cunning of an Aegean sorceress. … [S]he can make metafiction not just smart but fun. Once more she earns her place in a postwar British canon of playfully serious mavericks that runs from Muriel Spark and Brigid Brophy to Nicola Barker and Ali Smith.’ Spectator

‘Like a darker, funnier The White Lotus, The Sleepwalkers is horrifying in the best possible way. I loved every moment of it.’ James Smythe
‘The Sleepwalkers is brilliant, savage and hilarious. The voice is so strong and so distinctive from the get-go, so bold and pitilessly funny. There is no whingeing here, just a fearless takedown which I read through in a single streak of pure delight. This is Scarlett's best yet, and I don't say that lightly.’ Bidisha Mamata

'The Sleepwalkers is never-endingly surprising and full of keen observations on relationships, politics, and art. Thomas makes real life so fraught with meaning, it feels hauntingly supernatural. A twisty Gothic tale of vertiginous depths and haunting power.' Sandra Newman, author of Julia

'This original thriller has plenty of surprises.' Good Housekeeping

 'An attractive summer holiday read', Independent

Still reeling from the chaos of their wedding, Evelyn and Richard arrive on an idyllic Greek island for their honeymoon. It’s the end of the season and out at sea a storm is brewing.

They check in to an exclusive hotel, the Villa Rosa, where the proprietor Isabella — a strangely intense woman of indeterminate accent — flirts outrageously with Richard while treating Evelyn with a rudeness bordering on contempt. Isabella tells them the story of 'the sleepwalkers': a couple who stayed at the hotel the year before and drowned in a tragic and unexplained accident. It starts to feel like the entire island is obsessed with 'the sleepwalkers', but what at first seems like a fun tale to tell before bed quickly evolves into a living nightmare. 

Caught in a web of deception and intrigue, where nothing and nobody are quite what they seem, Evelyn and Richard discover that their island paradise may in fact be hell on earth and that their only means of escape is to confront dark truths about themselves and those they love. 

Exhilarating, suspenseful, and subversively funny, in The Sleepwalkers Thomas takes elements on Daphne Du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith and blends them with her own unique sensibility to create an unforgettable thriller of rare intelligence that cements her reputation as the most exciting and original author of her generation.

‘Muriel Spark’s disreputable niece.’ Spectator 

‘She's a genius.’ Douglas Coupland
‘Thomas has the mesmerising power of a great story teller.’ Financial Times
‘One of the most startling, unpredictable writers of her generation.’ Scotsman
The scintillating new novel from the author of The End of Mr Y

Patricia Highsmith meets White Lotus in this compulsive and brilliant gothic thriller

One of the Daily Telegraph's '20 Best New...

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ISBN 9781398528406
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 57 members

Featured Reviews

The Sleepwalkers follows a newly married couple who’ve been booked into a hotel on a small Greek Island as a wedding present, finding themselves the only guests at the end of the season. When they check in, the Villa Rosa’s owner greets Richard warmly, almost flirtatiously, but gives Evie the cold shoulder. A revelation made at their wedding has made them both feel their relationship is doomed, made worse by the discovery that another couple drowned recently, one attempting to save the other who slept walked into the sea. When two other guests turn up, interested in turning the sleepwalkers’ story into a movie, things take a decidedly odd turn.
I’m wary of saying too much about this gripping novel which plays with the thriller genre, leaving its readers handing on by their fingertips. Thomas presents her story as a series of documents – letters, transcripts, notebook pages – some written by Evie, some by Richard, others by hotel guests – several fragmented. Evie is a particularly pleasing unreliable narrator and it’s her letters that make up the bulk of the story, small bombshells let off as she tries to piece what happened to the sleepwalkers and why, while telling us her own story. I thoroughly enjoyed this clever smartly constructed novel, its tension kept taut right up to the end.

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One thing Scarlett Thomas's books never are is formulaic. The Sleepwalkers is the tale of newly-weds Richard and Evelyn and their ill-starred Honeymoon. Already uneasy as her mother-in-law has not only paid for the trip but also chosen the time and location Evelyn is less than thrilled to to find that there's a big storm approaching,insecure to find the place full of "the beautiful people" and taken aback when their Hotel's owner ignores her while having very obvious designs on Richard. Things can only get better.....except they don't,they get a whole lot worse as the couple learn of deaths the previous year and the plans of a pair of very strange filmmakers to dramatise the fatal event.
The story is told in the format of letters left by the couple for each other after being split up with their version of events on their honeymoon,dark,surreal and horrific events. Also revealed in the letters as the tale unfolds are their personal histories, let's just say that theirs was not the average romance.
As you'd expect from Scarlett Thomas there are plenty of surprises, a lot of dark humour and quirky and oddball characters are the norm.
Great fun and excellent entertainment.

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4-5 stars rounded up

Evelyn and Richard are on a small Greek island for their honeymoon, but it’s the end of the season and a storm is brewing in more ways than one. Perhaps it’s that Isabella, the hotel owner, only has eyes for Richard or that Isabella wants to impress an American couple, or maybe that all anyone wants to talk about, is “the sleepwalkers” an married couple who drowned in the sea the previous year. Perhaps too, it’s that the fates do not align for Evelyn and Richard, the omens certainly aren’t good. This fascinating novel is chiefly written in letter form which heightens the mystery and suspense.

I knew I’d enjoy this as I love the original and creative way that Scarlett Thomas writes and have greatly enjoyed her other books. This is a multilayered novel, those layers cleverly revealing themselves a little bit at a time. There’s tension and strain from the get go, it’s stormy, moody, troubled, and ominous from the beginning. There are off notes, some that are disturbing, it’s odd, strange and weird at the Villa Rosa and you sense that immediately. This is further heightened by some baffling incidents, there are games being played here, and it seems that Evelyn and maybe Richard are not privy to the rules. The tone becomes increasingly foreboding, there’s danger in the air, and it feels prophetic, and the building storm intensifies the situation, which certainly escalates.

I love the way the author tells the story as the letters allow some suspenseful cliffhangers and it becomes clear that there is a very big secret which is tantalising. The storytelling becomes increasingly dark as these secrets start to bubble to the surface, and they’re bad, very bad and it all starts to make awful sense. Both main characters become honest and there’s a rawness to it. It’s also interesting that the reader knows more than Evelyn does at several points through Richard’s letters. . There is some powerful imagery which adds to the intensity and I enjoy the occasional use of dark humour. The setting on the Greek island is fantastic and the end of season atmosphere along with the weather allows the author a lot of scope.

What of the characters? It’s fair to say they are not easy to like, but what is also true is that they are very complex and exceptionally well portrayed. Although the letters do change my perspective, especially on Evelyn as the realisation dawns that others have few merits.

Overall, this is a unique, twisty and very different story, it’s certainly an enigmatic puzzle which I thoroughly enjoy.

With thanks to NetGalley, and especially to Simon and Schuster, for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

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