Sometimes When I Sleep by Helen Salsbury

About the Book

For Harriet, Eden University is a chance to escape the shadows of a family tragedy and reinvent herself, even though she doesn't know exactly who she is or where she belongs. She's grown up hiding from curious eyes, and seeking refuge in the music of Dark Island, who appear to be the only ones who have words for her hidden traumas. Spurred by a promise from Dark Island that she's leaving the shadows, Harriet is convinced that university will be the place where all this changes. And yet, finding where she belongs is not easy. As the structures which have kept Harriet safe start to crumble, she comes to believe she has found a soulmate in the mysterious and compelling Iquis. But neither girl is telling everything, perhaps not even to themselves. 
Influenced by Gothic literature, this coming-of-age story explores the intense relationships which form on the cusp between childhood and adulthood. It's likely to appeal to readers of Joanna Harris, Maggie O’Farrell, and Holly Bourne.
You can find Sometimes When I Sleep on the author's website, Troubadour, Amazon, and Goodreads.

My Review


(Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and are honest and unbiased.)

There are times when the worst monsters are in our own minds. They're the simmering but repressed trauma, guilt, and grief that lurk on the edges of our consciousness, tainting our dreams with their shadows. They're the memories we've buried that threaten to spring up from their tomb, and the home we hold in our hearts that contrasts so sharply with the brutal reality of the present. These painful truths are depicted clearly in Sometimes When I Sleep by Helen Salsbury, which is one of the best, and creepiest, coming-of-age novels I've read. Sometimes When I Sleep is one of those timeless, powerful books that encourages readers to reflect on difficult topics like grief, trauma, change, friendship, family, forgiveness, and moving on. Sometimes When I Sleep had a more moderate pace, which could turn some readers off. Because I was expecting it, it didn't bother me; in fact, it was paced perfectly for the themes, plot, and subject matter. Though it started slow, the build-up was part of what made me so invested in the characters and the outcome. 


The scenery and eerie atmosphere of Sometimes When I Sleep are still vivid in my mind, as is the overwhelming sense of grief and loss conveyed by the characters. Iquis was very compelling and mysterious. Harriet was more straightforward on the surface, but she wound up becoming increasingly complex as the layers were revealed until the final heart-shattering truth came to light. The dynamic between the two was at times frosty and at other times passionate; I haven't read a story with such an emotionally charged and bittersweet companionship in years. I loved how Salsbury explored Harriet's fear of change. Alongside Harriet, the reader had to face the fact that change is necessary, inevitable, and–though scary–liberating. Salsbury kept me hooked and on edge with the mysteries surrounding Dark Island, Iquis, and Harriet's past. I wish we had gotten more insight into Iquis' internal conflicts and past, but that would have destroyed part of the intrigue that fueled Sometimes When I Sleep. Harriet and Iquis–along with the other characters–were deeply flawed. They all had their insecurities and fears, and that made them more relatable and less predictable. 


Sometimes When I Sleep provides a deep and insightful study of grief and its effects on individuals as well as a family unit and close friends. It was intriguing and surprising to see how Dark Island fed into the story. I know what it's like to form a bond with a band while coping with trauma, and those who have similar ties to bands, especially in the heavy metal genre, will be able to connect with Harriet in this way. The emotional climaxes and the truths revealed by the end of this book were astounding and devastating. I highly recommend Sometimes When I Sleep, but only if you're looking for a Gothic, character-driven coming-of-age tale. This book probably won't appeal to people looking for a lot of action, but if you'd like to get to know the characters, study their relationships, and watch them develop and change while enjoying some paranormal twists and rich, spine-tingling descriptions, you should give Sometimes When I Sleep a shot. 


 Content warning: This work contains themes of mental illness and death, including homicide and suicide

About the Author


Helen Salsbury writes complex, character-based novels which explore relationships and landscapes – the more dramatic, spectacular and beautiful the better! They are based on journeys towards self-discovery and healing. Her fiction has been published in anthologies, and shortlisted and longlisted for a number of prizes, including the Mslexia novel competition. She’s a trained community journalist and the founder of the environmental writing platform Pens of the Earth. If you'd like to learn more about Helen, please also check out this interview with author Loree Westron.

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  1. I read this book soon after it was published, and it really is a fabulous and gripping novel. I love the mystery surrounding both Harriett and Iquis. Each girl is haunted by events that slowly reveal themselves. The landscape in which the story is set is equally haunting and mysterious. Loved it!


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