Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Insomnia, the brand new thriller from Sarah Pinborough. I do love this author’s writing as she has a very distinct and unique way of twisting a narrative that always hits the right notes for me. This did not disappoint. My thanks to Publisher Harper Collins for the advance copy via Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 31 March 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins

About the Book

In the dead of night, madness lies…

Emma can’t sleep.


It’s been like this since her big 4-0 started getting closer.


Her mother stopped sleeping just before her 40th birthday too. She went mad and did the unthinkable because of it.


Is that what’s happening to Emma?


My Thoughts

On the surface, Insomnia is a tightly plotted, attention holding domestic noir focused on our protagonist and narrator, Emma Bournett, as she navigates the week leading up to her fortieth birthday. Stressful enough for a good few people (a lot of us have been than and passed that …) but even more so for Emma who is well aware that this is the age that her mother started to show worrying mental health issues, issues that she always predicted that Emma would inherit. Cue inexplicable and inescapable insomnia, a whole host of events which Emma cannot pin down or explain, and an increasingly fractious situation at home and at work, and we are drawn into a twisted and tense world which grabbed my attention from the beginning and just didn’t let go. That is one heck of a prologue, a shocking and dramatic opener which comes out of nowhere and seems almost unconnected to the main story. But this is a Sarah Pinborough book. Nothing is going to be straightforward. Just how I like it.

If there is something that the author excels at, aside from catching readers unaware, it is creating complex and multi-faceted characters who we both like and dislike at the same time. This was very much the case with Emma. I had sympathy for her situation, an already testing milestone which is complicated exponentially by her family history. Heck, even by her present family situation to be fair with a teenage daughter who is growing much faster than Emma would like, a son who is showing very worrying behaviour and a husband who is going through his own mid-life crisis. I didn’t always like Emma, but in many ways I could relate to her and even at her coldest moments, she wasn’t dark enough for me to give up on her. And I was intrigued and completely invested. I wanted to know if she was to befall the same fate as her mother, or if there was something, or someone, darker in play.

This is a wonderful examination of the family dynamic, with Emma’s sister returning from Spain after a long absence, her presence increasing the pressure and the tension throughout. There is so much in what goes on that I think a lot of people would relate to in their own family lives, extended or otherwise, the jealousies and complications of a family drifting apart, and Sarah Pinborough has rendered them perfectly on the page. But she has also infused the story with a really intense sense of fear and an almost claustrophobic sense of the world closing in on Emma which just had me reading faster and faster. That increasing paranoia being driven by the lack of sleep and the overwhelming exhaustion, tainted by that feeling that Emma needs a lot more help than can be gain from prescription sleeping tablets. All the little clues being drip fed throughout the narrative, that even though I spotted them, still sent me off in the completely wrong direction. It’s fair to say that Emma might not be the only person in need of a damned good therapist …

Sarah Pinborough is the queen of the twist, and this book did not disappoint. The truth of what is happening is kept until the critical moment and it is both surprising and yet fitting and left me with a smile on my face. It may not be an ending that will satisfy everyone – and the author has form for polarising finales – but it worked for me. Even without it this is a completely compelling read, a dark psychological thriller in which you can never quite settle down ot trust anyone or anything you see on page. But I didn’t pick up the book for a taste of the traditional. I came looking for something a little different, and I was delivered that and more. If you like the author’s unique style if twists, you are going to really like this book.

About the Author

Sarah Pinborough is a New York Times bestselling and Sunday Times Number one and Internationally bestselling author who is published in over 30 territories worldwide. Having published more than 25 novels across various genres, her recent books include Behind Her Eyes, now a smash hit Netflix limited series, Dead To Her, now in development with Amazon Studios, and 13 Minutes and The Death House in development with Compelling Pictures.

Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and also the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and she has four times been short-listed for Best Novel and was shortlisted for the British Book Award for best Thriller.

Sarah lives in the historic town of Stony Stratford, the home of the Cock and Bull story, with her dog Ted.

3 thoughts on “Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

  1. Excellent review, I can’t wait to get a copy of this one, it sounds wonderful. I love twists that make me smile or dropping my jaw and I agree, Sara Pinborough does it well.


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