The problem with this book is that it mixes two genres and doesn’t know what it wants to be. I’m all for crossovers, experimentation and new ways of writing. However, in the case of While You Sleep, I felt that the ghost story and psychological thriller elements were competing. Neither of them won, leading to an unsatisfactory ending.
There are some good aspects to this novel. The setting of a windswept coastal community was so evocative that I could feel the cold breeze, smell the salt in the air and hear the local accent. The haunted house was also atmospheric and spookily described. Definitely a page turner, with plenty of cliffhangers, twists, memorable characters and conflict. Basically the story follows Zoe, an American who needs a break from her difficult marriage and rents an old house in a Scottish island town. There are rumours about the house and although she doesn’t believe in ghosts, creepy things start to happen as soon as she arrives.
I felt let down by the ending. Not wanting to give it away in case you intend to read the book, l’ll just say that the author ties the loose ends up a bit too conveniently. I also felt that the characters’ expressions and movements were overly dramatic and that, as a third person narration but seen only through Zoe’s eyes, the author sometimes makes the error of assuming what other characters are thinking. Not sure that made sense, but for example, if a character hesitates, ‘unsure what to say next’, there is no way that Zoe could know that being ‘unsure what to say’ is the reason for hesitating. Something I thought didn’t quite fit the tone of the book were the occasional sinister erotic dream episodes (or not dreams – it’s never explained properly). There’s one quite early on in the story which I really wasn’t expecting and found distasteful.
Finally, some of the paragraphs were a page long. I don’t think any author these days should be able to get away with it. In summary, this book didn’t really ‘work’ for me but I liked the suspense building and the settings.