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Night Waking

‘A must-read for any parent, this novel dramatises a family’s struggle to balance work and relationships in the isolated setting of a Scottish isle. Everyday tensions and an extraordinary event come together to produce a remarkably satisfying story.’

Fiction Uncovered Judges 2011


Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby’s skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women’s vexed and passionate relationship with work. Moss’s second novel displays an exciting expansion of her range – showing her to be both an excellent comic writer and a novelist of great emotional depth.

About Sarah Moss:

Sarah Moss was born in Glasgow, but moved to Manchester as a young child. She spent ten years in Oxford, taking a BA, Master of Studies and D.Phil in English Literature and then holding a postdoctoral research fellowship. She has written extensively on the history and literature of food and travel and is the co-author of Chocolate: A Global History as well as her two novels, Cold Earth and Night Waking. Moss has taught at the University of Kent and the University of Iceland and now teaches about writing on nature and place at Exeter University’s Cornwall Campus.

A video interview with Sarah Moss.

Sarah Moss reading an extract from Night Waking.

Damian Barr, judge for Fiction Uncovered 2011, on Night Waking by Sarah Moss