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‘Insomnia’ book review: Dark & dense

‘Insomnia’ book review: Dark & dense

A couple of years ago, I watched the Netflix adaptation of ‘Behind Her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough. It was a slow-burn thriller about a single mother who unwittingly becomes a part of twisted mind games when she begins an affair with her psychiatrist boss while secretly befriending his mysterious wife. The ending shocked me. I hadn’t seen it coming. I really enjoyed the series but I wished I had read the book before watching it.

So naturally I was excited to come across ‘Insomnia’ by Pinborough. Reading the blurb and the reviews I was sure it was a gripping and unsettling psychological thriller. But it took me a while to get through Insomnia because it was so dark and dense. I’d have to put down the book after a few chapters to process what I had just read.

The plot is actually creepy. Emma has a great life: a successful career as a lawyer, a husband, Robert, and two children, Chloe and Will. But she’s unable to sleep and that is really messing with her head. Emma’s insomnia causes blackouts, makes her doubt her actions and question everything and everybody around her. When the police become involved, Emma starts wondering what she is capable of.

Emma and her older sister Phoebe grew up in foster care after their mother was admitted to a psychiatric facility on her 40th birthday. As Emma’s 40th birthday approaches and she finds herself struggling to sleep, she fears the ‘bad blood’ that made her mother go mad is affecting her too. She can’t trust her husband or her sister, both of whom are hiding things from her. Worse, her son Will is terrified of her and her daughter Chloe is a rebellious teenager.

There is a lot going on and it is all very paranoia-inducing. It’s difficult to trust any of the characters in the book. Everyone seems to have a sinister motive behind their actions. Or is Emma the real villain, her own worst enemy who is as deluded and psychotic as everyone around her is claiming she is? The horror/thriller aspect of the story is subtle but disturbing. It comes unexpectedly and takes root in your heart and mind.

Reading Insomnia also makes you wonder what traits you have inherited from your family. Do we all become our parents and embrace their faults and weaknesses? I can’t say I loved the book but I enjoyed reading it. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a scary book to get lost in during the weekend.



Sarah Pinborough

Published: 2023

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 342, Paperback