THE SHAPES OF SLEEP
Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Like practically everything else that Priestley wrote, this is a very readable book. It is a straightforward adventure story. Ben Sterndale, a freelance reporter, is asked by a friend who works in an advertising agency to look for a mysterious green paper which was stolen from his boss's office. Sterndale accepts and finds himself in the role of an amateur private detective. He encounters a young American sociologist who provides the love interest, although only after she has knocked him unconscious with a gin bottle quite early on.
The mission takes Sterndale to Germany, where he encounters various shady characters, some of whom are British. He retrieves the green paper and also some mysterious coloured paper cut-outs invented by the American girl's German uncle, a professor of psychology; these are supposed to produce a hypnotic effect on those who see them, but it is not clear that they work and they are a bit anticlimactic.
The narrative cracks along at a great rate and the reader is never bored. Part of the interest for a modern reader is to view post-war Britain through Priestley's eyes; Sterndale is a mouthpiece for his author's opinions and he doesn't much care for what he sees. But Priestley is too experienced a writer to fall into the trap of preaching to his readers, and readability is never sacrificed to propaganda.
24 October 2011
%T The Shapes of Sleep
%A Priestley, J.B.
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