Night Waking by Sarah Moss: May 2012 book of the month
Night Waking is a stylish, undiscovered gem that deserves trumpet calls and fanfare.
There are so many beautifully phrased observations on parenting in Night Waking that it's hard to pick a favourite. Maybe this: 'Prisoners awaiting execution, I am sure, greet the sunrise with less enthusiasm than I do, but most days I would put myself forward with some confidence against people facing dental treatment or driving tests.' Or: 'You can't uninvent children, any more than you can uninvent the bomb.'
Anna Cassingham (aka Dr Bennet) is an Oxford research fellow writing a history book. Only she isn't, because she is also trying to cope with the incessant interruptions, questions and demands of precocious, death-obsessed, seven-year-old Raph and two-year-old Moth, who has yet to sleep through the night. Husband Giles, owner of the tiny Scottish island of Colsay where they have come to live for the summer, is keen on homemade bread and recycling, less keen on domestic responsibility and comforting kids at 1am. While planting a tree one day, the family discover a baby's skeleton, which sets Anna (and the police) on a paper trail of stories that are interlinked with the island's history and Giles' ancestors.
Although the historical subplot is interesting and informative, the Cassinghams themselves are the real stars of the book, and particularly Anna's dry and intelligent sense of humour as she soldiers on.
The dialogue is sharp and funny, the observations are lively and true to life. Above all, the tension between the visceral love for your family and the need for self-preservation is brilliantly explored.
Like Helen Simpson in Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, Sarah Moss is one of those authors who just nails it. This is a book you'll be passing on to everyone around you, and an author who will undoubtedly be winning prizes in the near future.
Book club discussion: 30 May, 9-10pm
We are delighted that Sarah will be joining us to chat about Night Waking, motherhood and trying to juggle writing and family on Wednesday 30 May, 9-10pm.
About Sarah Moss
Sarah Moss is senior lecturer in literature and place at Exeter University. She spent a year teaching creative writing and 19th-century literature at the University of Iceland. Her first novel Cold Earth was published in 2010.
Read more about Sarah at Sarahmoss.org.
Last updated: 3 months ago