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Madeleine Is Sleeping (Harvest Book)by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum
A fat woman sprouts delicate wings and takes flight; a failed photographer stumbles into the role of pornographer; a beautiful young wife grows to resemble her husband's viol: these are all characters in Sarah Shun Li Bynum's marvelous gem of a novel. Composed in deceptively simple vignettes, Madeleine Is Sleeping follows the life of a young comatose girl in provincial France as she joins a circus, entangles herself in a bizarre love triangle, and discovers the power behind the dreamed and the experienced, the delicate and the grotesque, in the discovery of art, sexuality, and community.
Synopses & Reviews
When a girl falls into a deep and impenetrable sleep, the borders between her provincial French village and the peculiar, beguiling realm of her dreams begin to disappear: A fat woman sprouts delicate wings and takes flight; a failed photographer stumbles into the role of pornographer; a beautiful young wife grows to resemble her husband's viol. And in their midst travels Madeleine, the dreamer, who is trying to make sense of her own metamorphosis as she leaves home, joins a gypsy circus, and falls into an unexpected triangle of desire and love.
An extraordinary debut, Madeleine Is Sleeping received jubilant critical acclaim and was honored with a National Book Award nomination. Part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, this "dream of a book" (Michael Cunningham) is an adventure in the discovery of art, sexuality, community, and the self.
"An immensely obese woman who sprouts two magnificent pairs of wings, a lonely housewife who grows strings to match her husband's viol and a lascivious, wealthy widow are just a few of the fantastical characters who populate the enchanting world of Bynum's debut. Written in brief, dreamy segments (appropriately enough, since the title character has fallen into a Sleeping Beauty-like slumber), the book alternates deftly between reality and illusion as it follows Madeleine down a path of sexual, artistic and personal discovery. In a perverse revisitation of Ludwig Bemelmans's classic children's books, Madeleine, exiled to a Parisian convent from her pastoral French home after committing a rather scientific sex act with the village idiot, joins a band of gypsies who wind up performing for a widow with a love of photography and a penchant for the pornographic. As Madeleine grows entwined in an intensely erotic love triangle with the "flatulent man," M. Pujol, and Adrien, the photographer assigned to document the widow's grotesquely arranged tableaux, life at home grows worse for the family holding vigil over her as she sleeps. The book culminates in a masterful merge between Madeleine's waking life and her dreams, making it impossible to discern whether reality ever existed in Bynum's imaginative tale. Replete with Kafkaesque metamorphoses, Freudian fantasies, Aesopian justice and religious metaphor, the novel is equal parts fairy tale, fable, romance and bildungsroman. At times, the allegorical allusions grow predictable, and some readers may be put off by the constant shifts and uncertainty between fact and fiction. Others looking for a challenging, unusual read will be thrilled by the imagination and mysterious energy that haunt this remarkable debut." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information)
"Bynum's lush, poetic imagery is full of vivid, sensuous details one can almost smell, taste, and feel... Achingly human and poignantly telling." The Boston Globe
"Masterful...a voice at once sensuous and humorous, mellifluous and matter-of-fact" Washington Post Book World
"Bynum's voice is vivid, her use of language incisive and surprising." BookForum
"Extravagantly imagined...a fantasy influenced by writers from Ludwig Bemelmans to Angela Carter." New York Times
"Hypnotic.... A small, enchanting novel that appeals to the naughty, insolent child in each of us." USA Today
When a girl falls into a deep and impenetrable sleep, the borders between her provincial French village and the peculiar, beguiling realm of her dreams begin to disappear. Part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, this is an adventure in the discovery of art, sexuality, community, and self.
"A haunting, genre-breaking novel with all the narrative energy of a mystery yet all the careful lyricism of a prose poem."--ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, this enchanting novel follows the dreams of a girl who has fallen mysteriously into a deep, impenetrable sleep. The fantastic mingles with the real as the dreaming Madeleine leaves home, joins a gypsy circus, and stumbles into an unexpected triangle of desire, in this richly imagined adventure that transcends time and place.
"Bynum makes readers question the extent to which we may be sleepwalking through our lives. And she asks us to discover what our own dreams can teach us. The result is a small, enchanting novel that appeals to the naughty, insolent child in each of us."--USA Today
"The tale-telling is delicate, grave and almost evanescent . . . A voice at once sensuous and humorous, mellifluous and matter-of-fact."--The Washington Post Book World
"Luminous and daring."--Los Angeles Times
"Bynum's lush, poetic imagery is full of vivid, sensuous details one can almost smell, taste, and feel . . . Achingly human and poignantly telling."--The Boston Globe
"Audacious . . . extravagantly imagined . . . the novel is lovely."--The New York Times
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's fiction has appeared in the Georgia Review, TriQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, and the Best American Short Stories 2004. She lives with her husband and daughter in Los Angeles, and teaches at the University of California, San Diego. Madeleine Is
Sleeping is her first novel.
About the Author
Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum's fiction has appeared in the Georgia Review and Alaska Quarterly Review. She lives in Los Angeles.
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