Wherever the story ends…
Publisher: Legend Press
First Published: 2012
Date Reviewed: 19th September 2012
Annelie Strandli (Grethe to her friends) presents to the reader a fictional story written by her friend, who is dead. Annelie is herself included in the story, a story of a girl who meets a boy, which in turn contains another story. It seems she took a while to work it all out, but might the reader understand it quicker? The basic plot is that Annelie meets Berry and Annelie wants to read Berry’s work, and he in turn is unhappy that she has a boyfriend.
Many novels have been called unique and powerful, and described as containing incredible depths. If such a number of novels is categorised as a group then Crook’s short work is destined to join it. And yet it can’t, because what Crook has written here is truly different; it is the structure of the plot, the layers of meaning that aren’t contained in the pages and that must be experienced afterwards, that are so individual. What is especially intriguing about the relationship between the text, the reader, and what is implied rather than spoken, is the way in which you can spend a long time, whilst reading, wondering whether or not you will be able to work it out, and a lot more time wondering if for all the reading you have done in the past you might be completely stupid. This being before you work it out. Was such a thing considered by Crook? This in itself is pause for thought because either way the conclusion yields more discussion, of both the text and what the overall purpose is.
Indeed if the summary of the plot, if plot is the word, sounds intriguing, then the structure is all the more so. The reader must start at the dedication page; whereas it is fine to bypass dedication pages in general, in this case to bypass would be to make a mistake. This is because the dedication tells you that Crook is dead, however he is not – it is he who sent this reviewer a copy of the book. And due to the many layers of story, if Crook is not dead and there are already a good few layers of repetition already, then the possibilities are endless and the book may even have a higher level than the reader themselves – in other words the reader may in fact be yet another layer of the story, who knows? Once you’re past the dedication page there is one other element of intrigue and then you start reading the story itself – starting at chapter 5. You don’t need to worry about getting chronological order wrong however, it’s easy enough to keep up. And whilst you could read the chapters in order, there is no bonus to doing so, you might even miss something.
There is a story within a story within a story, possibly with another story before all of that. The reader ought to find it out for themselves. The most inner story, however, is appealing in the way that it is written; Crook is a very good writer yet suddenly this inner story has sections where the plot is written very simply, almost dull in places, juxtaposed with other sections that are more highbrow. Luckily for the reader, apart from the subtext the book is very easy to follow.
The story – whichever story that is – has a romantic basis, subtle so that it will appeal to all, whilst having emotion pouring from it. And the story – this time the obvious one of Crook being the writer of the book – transcends fiction, making the author fictitious as a character himself and Annelie, presented by Crook as fictional, real.
There is a connection between all the stories. At the heart of everything, the author presents himself in the story (the one Annelie presents) as a fly-on-the-wall. But is he? And if Annelie is supposedly real is this non-fiction of sorts? Are we looking into real lives or fictional ones? And why is the author written as dead? We can take what Berry says as fact, but of the rest there is no knowing.
These are questions you will ask yourself, and whilst this reviewer has answers gathered from reading Sleeping Patterns, they could always be wrong and other readers will likely have other questions in addition.
It is impossible to explain this book further without giving the entirety away. Sleeping Patterns requires all of your attention but it will give as good as it gets. If you are looking to be awed and inspired, to be challenged intellectually, and to find love in a different way, this is the one.
I received this book for review from the author.
September 24, 2012, 3:38 pm
Will keep an eye out for it!
September 24, 2012, 4:56 pm
Amazing that he can pull off so many stories in such a short page count.
September 24, 2012, 5:05 pm
Ooh, fascinating — strange — I liiike!
September 25, 2012, 2:32 am
what an intriguing review!
September 25, 2012, 7:43 pm
This sounds… like it would make my head spin, but also like an amazing read. It reminds me of Jostein Gaarder, who likes to interweave several stories.
September 27, 2012, 12:40 am
Ah, I’m glad you liked it too, Charlie! It always makes me happy when someone discovers a book through one of my reviews, and ends up enjoying it.
September 27, 2012, 9:49 am
Liviania: It works because each of the stories is so short, there’s generally a single point to make in them. I think if the book had been longer the main purpose would have had such an impact.
Audra: It is indeed strange, but in a very good way.
Jennifer: Thanks! I’m happy to say intrigue goes with the book.
Tze-Wen: The head-spinning was exactly what got me interested, and it’s a major element of the book’s success – not the spinning itself, but what you conclude from all your thoughts. I literally wrote down every single thought I’d had as possible conversation points because when you finish it, or during reading it, you think one thing which leads to another and so on. I haven’t heard of Gaarder, I’ll have to do some research because your description sounds the sort of thing I’d enjoy.
Andrew: Yes, pretty much everything I’d been thinking after reading your review was also how I felt after reading the book myself – it’s wonderful how well it lives up to the summaries and other people’s views. I know what you mean, when someone doesn’t enjoy a book you recommended it can feel awkward.