Wednesday 30 October 2013

Book Review: The Sleep Room by FR Tallis

The Sleep Room
by FR Tallis
Psychological Thriller
3 Stars
Review Copy from Amazon Vine


When promising young psychiatrist James Richardson is offered the job opportunity of a lifetime by the charismatic Dr. Hugh Maitland, he is thrilled. Setting off to take up his post at Wyldehope Hall in deepest Suffolk, Richardson doesn't look back. One of his tasks is to manage Maitland's most controversial project--a pioneering therapy in which extremely disturbed patients are kept asleep for months. If this radical and potentially dangerous procedure is successful, it could mean professional glory for both doctors.

As Richardson settles into his new life, he begins to sense something uncanny about the sleeping patients--six women, forsaken by society. Why is Maitland unwilling to discuss their past lives? Why is the trainee nurse so on edge when she spends nights alone with them? And what can it mean when all the sleepers start dreaming at the same time? In this atmospheric reinvention of the ghost story, Richardson finds himself questioning everything he knows about the human mind, as he attempts to uncover the shocking secrets of The Sleep Room...


On the surface this book seems that it has all the ingredients of a ghost story. An old, isolated house now used as a small psychiatric hospital, a previous doctor who left due to mysterious circumstances, unexplained pehenomena.

I really, really wanted it to be a ghost story, but in the end you find out it wasn't a ghost story at all but something completely different. It's a bait and switch on the part of the author and I came away feeling cheated when it wasn't what I expected.

There is a twist at the end, but I guessed it long before we got there.

This is not a bad book, in fact it's a very interesting historical novel dealing with the disputes between the two main branches of psychiatry in the 1950's - "the talking cure" and treating mental illnesses with lots of medication, electro-shock therapy and narcosis (keeping the patient asleep for most of the day.)

The writing flows easily and you get drawn in. James Richardson starts off as an interesting character and quite sympathetic but then he lost a lot of my sympathy with his misogynist treatment of Jane, the nurse he was supposed to be in love with. He knew she'd had other lovers before him and it didn't seem to bother him until he discovered she'd also been with his boss. Suddenly he does an about turn and she's a scarlet woman and everything else! I know it was set in the 1950s, but come on!

This is interesting as a historical novel, but it is not a ghost story, which is what I'd been looking for when I ordered it.

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