This book is rather reminiscent of the sensation novels written by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins in the latter half of the 19th Century, though the subject matter of Sleep, Pale Sister
is much more risqué than any of those works published back then. It’s a sort of twist on the Gothic ghost story and the madwoman in the attic theme, interlaced with a mystical Middle Eastern flavor.
I loved that the book is told through a split narrative. Each voice is so different, adding various layers to the narrative, making the novel, on the whole, that much more intriguing. The writing’s hypnotic, easily drawing you into this world of art, fantasy, magic and debauchery. All the characters are deeply flawed, each one desperately desiring more than what they have. Reality is never enough as the characters often seek solace in drink or their drug of choice—be it women, fantasy, love, laudanum, or chloral hydrate. Though at times it can be difficult to discern what’s real and what’s illusion, as the characters are describing the events as they see them—through inebriated or drug induced perceptive states.
The story itself is rather cold and creepy, and given that the reader’s able to glimpse inside of and witness first hand the characters’ perverted thoughts and the flawed reasoning behind their actions, it becomes so real, so tangible, and dare I say it—at times even understandable, which makes it all the more disconcerting, and left me feeling ultimately flustered and uneasy as I read the final few pages.