THE SLEEP ROOM by F. R. Tallis

Book Quote:

“Physical pain, no matter how bad, was never the equal of mental pain.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (DEC 15, 2013)

The Sleep Room, by F. R. Tallis, is set in England in the 1950s. Dr. James Richardson is offered an opportunity to work with Hugh Maitland, a well-known scholar and “the most influential psychiatrist of his generation.” After he is hired, James travels to Wyldehope Hall, in rural Suffolk, a hospital with twenty-four beds and a narcosis room. Severely disturbed patients are given drugs to induce sleep for twenty-one hours a day. Nurses monitor the patients’ vital signs and rouse them at regular intervals for meals, bathing, and sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. James observes that the sleep room is run like a “factory production line;” the patients, who wear white gowns, resemble “compliant ghosts.”

Most of the story is narrated by Richardson, an insecure and intense young man who interacts with nurses and the occasional doctor, but spends much of his time alone or with his sleeping patients. It is unsurprising that his imagination soon starts playing tricks on him. He has upsetting dreams, hears strange noises, and notices that objects are disappearing or disturbed. Is there a supernatural explanation for these peculiar phenomena? We sympathize with the increasingly anxious Richardson as he grows ever more uncertain about the efficacy of narcosis and the wisdom of his remaining at Wyldehope. Fortunately, James finds much-needed solace in the arms of Jane Turner, a lovely nurse to whom he is deeply attracted.

Frank Tallis is a talented writer — his Max Liebermann series of historical mysteries is outstanding — who foreshadows the spine-chilling events to come by creating a creepy and sinister mood and setting his novel in a remote and forbidding locale. Tallis, an experienced clinical psychologist and an expert in the history of his field, educates us about bizarre and frightening treatments that were once routinely administered by respected medical practitioners. The conclusion is sure to generate controversy. Some will pronounce it clever; others (myself included) may find it gimmicky and contrived. Nevertheless, The Sleep Room is a compelling exploration of the nature of reality, the fragility of the human mind, and the arrogance of power-hungry physicians who cruelly exploit the men and women in their care.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-0from 7 readers
PUBLISHER: Pegasus (October 1, 2013)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Writing The Sleep Room
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


The Liebermann Papers:

Writing as F. R. Tallis


December 15, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Horror, Mystery/Suspense, Psychological Suspense, United Kingdom

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