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The Sleepless Moon
Page Count
Word Count
Michael Joseph
Woman's Own
Publication Year
Marriage, Music, Adultery, Northamptonshire

London: Michael Joseph, 1956; Boston: Little Brown and Company ( an Atlantic Monthly Press Book).
Dedication: "To David Lean."
Serialized in eight weekly parts in Woman's Own (November 1955 to January 1956).

A novel that portrays a young woman miserably married to a repressed older man and her escape into a meaningless affair. It takes place in a setting based on Higham Ferrers, in the Northamptonshire of Bates's youth, and has similarities in theme to Bates's second novel, the 1929 Catherine Foster.

Bates refers to the book twice in his autobiography, once (The Vanished World, p. 83) recalling a garden from his childhood which "must have made on my young mind an impression at once permanent and endearing, for it is from this garden and its adjoining stone house that the tragic heroine of The Sleepless Moon...walks to her wedding in the neighbouring church and subsequently to a marriage unconsummated" and later (The World in Ripeness, pp. 121-124) discussing at length his reasons for addressing the identical theme of Catherine Foster, and his demoralization at one response to the new novel and its subject matter: "I was ashamed of the book. I deliberately refrained from reading any notices of it; in my heart I disowned it; and worse still I came to a stubborn and depressing decision: I would never, never write another novel."

While the Spectator called it "Bates's best," the Times calls it "dispiriting, a positive squirrel's cage of repressed emotions and unfulfilled hopes. If, because it has a slightly manufactured air...this is a disappointing novel, nevertheless it is almost carried through by the author's experience and craftsmanship." Similarly, the Times Literary Supplement comments that "in many small touches Mr. Bates shows his deep understanding not only of country life but of country-town life, yet the oppressive mood of frustration and despair which overhangs the book destroys much of the individuality of his characters."


  • Books and Bookmen (June 1956, p. 29, John Foss, attached)
  • Spectator (June 8, 1956, p. 802, Daniel George, attached)
  • Times (June 7, 1956, p. 13, attached)
  • Times Literary Supplement (June 15, 1956, David Tylden-Wright, attached)
  • Daily Telegraph (June 8, 1956, p. 8, M.R. Ridley, attached)
  • Sunday Times (June 3, 1956, p. 5, Marie Scott-James, attached)


The below reviews and articles are available in PDF format.