Sleep, Pale Sister

Sleep, Pale Sister

3.8 12
by Joanne Harris
     
 

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Before the sweet delight of Chocolat, before the heady concoction that is Blackberry Wine, and before the tart pleasures of Five Quarters of the Orange, bestselling author Joanne Harris wrote Sleep, Pale Sister -- a gothic tourde-force that recalls the powerfully dark sensibility of her novel Holy Fools.

Originally published in

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Overview

Before the sweet delight of Chocolat, before the heady concoction that is Blackberry Wine, and before the tart pleasures of Five Quarters of the Orange, bestselling author Joanne Harris wrote Sleep, Pale Sister -- a gothic tourde-force that recalls the powerfully dark sensibility of her novel Holy Fools.

Originally published in 1994 -- and never before available in the United States -- Sleep, Pale Sister is a hypnotically atmospheric story set in nineteenth century London. When puritanical artist Henry Chester sees delicate child beauty Effie, he makes her his favorite model and, before long, his bride. But Henry, volatile and repressed, is in love with an ideal. Passive, docile, and asexual, the woman he projects onto Effie is far from the woman she really is. And when Effie begins to discover the murderous depths of Henry's hypocrisy, her latent passion will rise to the surface.

Sleep, Pale Sister combines the ethereal beauty of a Pre-Raphaelite painting with a chilling high gothic tale and is a testament to Harris's brimming cornucopia of talents.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Before she wrote more contemporary books like the wildly popular Chocolat, Harris penned this dark and haunting gothic, set in 19th-century London. It is the tale of puritanical, middle-aged artist Henry Chester, who buys child-beauty Effie off the street for a few pence. She is his vision of feminine perfection-passive, docile, innocent, unsullied-and he paints her in various poses of slumber and death. When she turns 17, he marries her and keeps her drugged with laudanum to repress her emerging thoughts and desires. The story is told in alternating chapters by Chester, young Effie, and Mose Harper, a fellow artist and Effie's roguish lover, which adds to the tension and haunting intrigue. Chester reveals his sexual obsession and volatile possessiveness, Mose his rapacious albeit cynical appetites for young Effie, and Effie her burgeoning passion for Mose and repulsion for her husband's hypocrisy and sexual proclivities. Readers of Harris's later novels will see glimpses of their atmosphere, sensuality, and elegant style. Highly popular in England when it was first published in 1993 and now making its U.S. debut, Harris's first novel will resonate with both gothic romance readers and fans of her later work. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060787110
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/30/2005
Series:
P.S. Series
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
616,707
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sleep, Pale Sister


By Joanne Harris

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Joanne Harris
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060787112

Chapter One

Don't look at me that way -- I can't bear it! You're thinking how much I have changed. You see the young man in the picture, his clear, pale brow, curling dark hair, his untroubled eyes -- and you wonder how he could be me. The carelessly arrogant set of the jaw, the high cheekbones, the long, tapered fingers seem to hint at some hidden, exotic lineage, although the bearing is unmistakably English. That was me at thirty-nine -- look at me carefully and remember . . . I could have been you.

My father was a minister near Oxford, my mother the daughter of a wealthy Oxfordshire landowner. My childhood was untroubled, sheltered, idyllic. I remember going to church on Sundays, singing in the choir, the coloured light from the stained-glass windows like a shower of petals on the white surplices of the choristers . . .

The black angel seems to shift imperceptibly and, in her eyes, I sense an echo of the pitiless comprehension of God. This is not a time for imagined nostalgia, Henry Paul Chester. He needs your truth, not your inventions. Do you think to fool God?

Ridiculous, that I should still feel the urge to deceive, I who have lived nothing but a life of deceit for over forty years. The truth is a bitter decoction: I hate to uncork it for this last meeting. And yet I am what I am. For the first time I can dare to take God's words for myself. This is no sweetened fiction. This is Henry Chester: judge me if you wish. I am what I am.

There was, of course, no idyllic childhood. My early years are blank: my memories begin at age seven or eight; impure, troubled memories even then as I felt the serpent grown within me. I do not remember a time when I was not conscious of my sin, my guilt: no surplice, however white, could hide it. It gave me wicked thoughts, it made me laugh in church, it made me lie to my father and cross my fingers to extinguish the lie.

There were samplers on the wall of every room of our house, embroidered by my mother with texts from the Bible. Even now I see them, especially the one in my room, stark on the white wall opposite my bed: I am that I am. As I passed the summers and winters of my boyhood, in my moments of peace and the contemplation of my solitary vices I watched that sampler, and sometimes, in my dreams, I cried out at the cruel indifference of God. But I always received the same message, stitched now for ever in the intricate patterns of my memory: I am that I am.

My father was God's man and more frightening to me than God. His eyes were deep and black, and he could see right into the hidden corners of my guilty soul. His judgement was as pitiless and impartial as God's own, untainted by human tenderness. What affection my father had he lavished on his collection of mechanical toys, for he was an antiquarian of sorts and had a whole room filled with them, from the very simplest of counterweighted wooden figures to the dreamlike precision of his Chinese barrel-organ with its hundred prancing dwarves.

Of course, I was never allowed to play with them -- they were too precious for any child -- but I do remember the dancing Columbine. She was made of fine porcelain and was almost as big as a three-year-old child. Father told me, in one of his rare moments of informality, that she was made by a blind French craftsman in the decadent years before the Revolution. Running his fingers across her flawless cheek, he told me the story: how she had belonged to some spoiled king's bastard brat, abandoned among rotting brocades when the Terror struck and godless heads rolled with the innocent. How she was stolen by a pauper woman who could not bear to see her smashed and trampled by the sans-culotte. The woman had lost her baby to the famine and kept Columbine in a cradle in her poor hovel, rocking her and singing lullabies until they found her, mad and starving and alone, and took her away to the asylum to die.

Columbine survived. She arrived in a Paris antiquarian's the year I was born, and Father, who was returning from a trip to Lourdes, saw her and bought her at once, though her silk dress was rotten and her eyes had fallen into her head from neglect and rough handling. As soon as he saw her dance, he knew she was special: wind the key set into the small of her back and she would begin to move, stiffly at first, then with a slick, inhuman fluidity, raising her arms, bowing from the waist, flexing her knees, showing the plump roundness of her porcelain calves under the dancer's skirt. Months of loving restoration gave her back all her beauty, and now she sat resplendent in blue and white satin in my father's collection, between the Indian music-box and the Persian clown.

I was never allowed to wind her up. Sometimes, when I lay awake in the middlle of the night, I could hear a faint tinkle of music from behind the closed door, low and intimate, almost carnal . . . The image of Father in his nightgown with the dancing Columbine in his hands was absurdly disquieting. I could not help wondering how he would hold her; whether he would dare to let his hand creep beneath the foaming lace of her petticoats . . .

I rarely saw my mother; she was often indisposed and spent a great deal of time in her room, into which I was not allowed. She was a beautiful enigma, dark-haired and violet-eyed. Glancing into the secret chamber one day I remember a looking-glass, jewels, scarves, armfuls of lovely gowns strewn over the bed. Among it all lingered a scent of lilac, the scent of my mother when she leaned to kiss me goodnight, the scent of her linen as I buried my face in the washing the maid hung out to dry.

Continues...


Excerpted from Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris Copyright © 2005 by Joanne Harris.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Joanne Harris is the author of seven previous novels—Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Sleep, Pale Sister, and Gentlemen & Players; a short story collection, Jigs & Reels; and two cookbook/memoirs, My French Kitchen and The French Market. Half French and half British, she lives in England.

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Sleep, Pale Sister 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will not feel good after reading this. You may feel sad, mad, disappointed, and probably disturbed. However, its worth it. I am in awe of how deep Joanne Harris was able to delve to the characters' psyches. All the characters are wonderfully written, even the 'antagonist' merits sympathy. The story is very interesting. I couldn't put it down.
dayzd89 More than 1 year ago
Sleep, Pale Sister was originally published in 1994 and was republished after Joanne Harris became popular with Chocolat. I haven't read Chocolat yet, but I am definitely her fan after finishing Sleep, Pale Sister. The novel is enrapturing in its prose, and the writing really does read like poetry throughout the book. The story is at once beautiful and sad, and I found myself hypnotized by Harris' world of drugs, lust, and betrayal. You don't have to like the characters to appreciate the writing, either. She writes them with so much realism and raw honesty, I could see their actions and thoughts so clearly on every page. There were a few parts (maybe two or three) where I found myself confused as to what was going on and who was speaking, but I quickly became accustomed to the shift in narrators. By the end of the novel, I found myself wondering what really happened and who was actually telling the truth. It's such a deeply layered and gorgeous novel, one that messes with your head.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first time I have absolutely hated one of Harris' novels. I kept reading this wretched piece of fiction in hopes that something was going to give and I was sorely disappointed. Do not waste your money and especially your time on this book unless you cannot pass up a tale of unpunished pedophilia.
AnaMardoll More than 1 year ago
Sleep, Pale Sister / 978-0-061-49799-5 "Sleep, Pale Sister" grabs you from the first page and never lets go. As you are dragged through the lives of one pale victim and her three persecutors, you are shown by turns the motivations and inner thoughts of her tormentors, by the careful, compelling switches between narrative viewpoint. This is one of the hardest tricks to pull off in novels, yet Harris manages to make it look effortless. Each tormentor addresses themselves to us, explains their motives, their thoughts, urges that their view is the right one, the sane one, the correct one. As each villain "loves" our poor victim into the grave, we are touched with the deep sadness of the cruelties we can inflict on one another in our own deep selfishness. From the husband who hates his wife for being human, female, and an adult, and who punishes her for her own good to remove the sin from her; from the lover who hates his darling for being strong when he desires weakness and weak when he desires strength, and who torments her to break her spirit and satisfy his own desires; to the distraught mother who is so anxious to see her dead daughter again that she will hypnotize, drug, and abuse a sweet, lost stranger in an attempt to regain what she has lost... and engineer a terrible revenge. Deeper and darker than other Harris novels, "Sleep, Pale Sister" offers no hope - only a painful, terrifying look at how even the 'normal' amongst us can become so consumed with our own desires and pain that we become willing to inflict pain on innocent bystanders, even convincing ourselves in our enthusiasm that we are "helping", when in fact we are destroying their life, their mind, and their heart. I highly recommend this novel as a gripping, terrifying read. (My only complaint with this novel is that her interpretation of the Tarot is completely different from the one I have been taught. This makes for some confusing reading at times. Example, she seems to associate The Hermit with dark, unpleasant secrets and desires - she has used the card here to identify murderers. However, to my teachers, The Hermit is a card of withdrawal, healing, and inner study. Another example, The Hanged/Hanging Man is frequently mistaken as a bad card - after all, being hanged to death is no fun, no? Yet, The Hanging Man is not hanged by his neck to die - he is hanging upside down from a tree as a child would, by his legs, looking at the world from a new and different perspective. However, Harris almost always considers it, and its partner Death (a card of change and new beginnings, and not of actual death) as bad, evil omens. These misinterpretations are frequently seen among people new to the Tarot, who take the meanings literally without understanding the symbolic message. Surely, however, Harris is no novice, so I can only assume that she is working with some different tradition. I also simply do not understand her use of The Star in this novel - The Star is a card of quiet healing, but here it is a card of miscarriage and trauma, and I'm not sure why. The fact that Harris uses a different interpretation of the Tarot did not in any way detract from the novel for me, but it is worth mentioning that novices may be confused by the usage here.) ~ Ana Mardoll
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LaurenBDavis More than 1 year ago
Very dark, very Gothic and a good read. Harris has created a dream-like, murky story, narrated by four different characters. It's a psychological drama, a ghost story, a murder story, a novel about artists and models and sexual obsessions, all wrapped in one. Is it perfect? Not quite. The voices sound a little too similar to one another for that. But never mind, it's a great read for a rainy night by the fire. Enjoy.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing book. Its extremely dark and disturbing, but I was in awe of how Joanne Harris captured perfectly the psychological struggles of the characters. It doesn't have a good ending, either. The whole book is worth it, though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this story very much, it's mysterious and interesting and one feels sympathy for the characters, who are very real. I recommend this book to everyone who loved her previous books.