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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Sleepless Night

Margriet de Moor

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To purchase Sleepless Night

Title: Sleepless Night
Author: Margriet de Moor
Genre: Novel
Written: 1989; rev. 2016 (Eng. 2019)
Length: 122 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Sleepless Night - US
Sleepless Night - UK
Sleepless Night - Canada
Au premier regard - France
Schlaflose Nacht - Deutschland
  • Dutch title: Slapeloze nacht
  • Translated by David Doherty
  • Slapeloze nacht is a revised version of the novella Op het eerste gezicht, originally published in Dubbelportret (1989)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effectively haunting tale of loss lingering

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 7/6/2018 Estelle Lenartowicz
Le Monde . 24/5/2018 Ariane Singer
NZZ . 15/10/2016 Nico Bleutge

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ici, le calme annonce la renaissance d'un désir. Le temps d'une nuit d'insomnie, l'écrivaine néerlandaise creuse des gestes suspendus et des silences harmonieux. Une parenthèse de grâce." - Estelle Lenartowicz, L'Express

  • "Als Leser weiss man so nicht immer sofort, in welcher Zeit man sich befindet, man durchlebt die Suchbewegung gleichsam selbst und muss sich sein Bild immer wieder neu zusammensetzen. Schade nur, dass Margriet de Moor am Ende des Buches einige der Lücken wieder schliesst, die sie vorher so geschickt gesetzt hat. Ihre Kunst der Umkreisung lebt von Verschiebungen" - Nico Bleutge, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Sleepless Night begins: "It's another of those nights". Something that happened nearly fifteen years earlier still weighs on the narrator's mind, and leaves her with sleepless nights. She doesn't fight it any longer, tossing and turning in bed; instead, she gets up and goes down to the kitchen, to bake. On this particular night, it's a Bundt cake; "A special calm is needed to make this dough", she notes, but she's been at this long enough to have that calm.
       The arc of the novel is this account of this particular sleepless, from when this teacher in her late thirties gets up to when the cake is done. But much of her account is reflective, looking to the past, with reminders all around her of her brief marriage ("fourteen months. From July 1970 till the following September") and husband, Ton, with whom she had begun to share a life with, and expected to continue to -- until the shocking and still inexplicable course of action he took, so long ago. Understandably, she has found it difficult to leave that, and him, behind her; it's given her all these many sleepless nights over the years.
       This particular sleepless night is somewhat different from previous ones in that someone is sharing her bed. The narrator is trying, again, to move on. She has tried to date, and having met up with this divorced father of two teenagers and having exchanged histories (she's an open book: "As far as I'm concerned, the facts of my life are a matter of public record"), has taken this more significant (if still tentative) step towards moving on. It's not easy for her; Ton, and the mystery of why he left her in the way he did, have haunted her all this time; struggling to figure out what might have been his reasons has been her overwhelming preöccupation all these years.
       She reflects on how she and Ton met and fell in love -- introduced by his sister, Lucia, a university-friend of hers. Shortly after she graduated, Ton and Lucia's father passed away, and Ton went to take over the family farm; the narrator followed him, getting a position at a local school, and: "We married in early July and fourteen months later I was a widow",
       She remains in the farmhouse Ton had fixed up; she never even thinks of leaving: "I could not leave this place. It was barely even a decision" -- though she apparently remains somewhat of an outsider in this rural area, the locals surprised that she remains. She notes: "They don't understand me around here". But she was unable to move on, in almost any way, and she still struggles.
       This sort of small (but abyss-deep) tale depends very much on the telling, and de Moor does a very fine job. Distant as many of the events are -- the narrator's student-days and marriage --, de Moor convincingly presents the lingering memory and mystery, and her protagonist's efforts over the years to deal with the enshrouding fog (and attempts to find some clarity).
       Sleepless Night is both melancholy and hopeful (but nowhere near cloyingly so), and doesn't force too many answers; love and loss remain mysteries -- but ultimately quite satisfyingly so. (And, when all is said and done, there's cake .....)

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 May 2019

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Sleepless Night: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Margriet de Moor was born in 1941.

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© 2019-2021 the complete review

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