Audacious debut about a young woman looking for rest in a sleepless world
Ananda Serné’s Night Bloomers is a captivating, funny and original debut about the relationship between people and their surroundings. She describes a near future in which many people are suffering from insomnia, one of the afflictions of a late capitalist society in which screens constantly seduce people into consuming more.
Eliza is a Dutch woman working at the Institute for Insomnia in Stavanger. After breaking up with Andreas, her supervisor at the Institute, she moves into an empty, echoing apartment. In her spare time she works on a research proposal about the correlation between insomnia and people’s choice of partner, but she can’t seem to get further than the opening paragraph. She has a hard time getting settled in Norway. Her love life is floundering, the people seem gruff and offish and her family is far away. Ever since her father, a sailor, died by suicide, she has felt adrift, like she has lost her anchor in the world.
Night Bloomers is set in a near future where everyone suffers from insomnia and uses sleep drops every night. In Norway, sleep watchers pick people who look exhausted up off the streets and take them to slumber clinics. Why the government has established these clinics is unclear – is it to get the population fit again as soon as possible? Eliza isn’t sleeping well either. She needs more and more calming drops to be able to get to sleep; on her doctor’s advice, she starts keeping a sleep diary. What follows is Eliza’s attempt to find stability and figure out how to live her life in a chaotic, rapidly changing world. She starts training to be a sleep watcher and, in an effort to become more rooted in her surroundings, plants a garden full of night bloomers: flowers that only unfurl their petals at night.
Ananda Serné deftly combines prose, photos, essays and passages from Eliza’s sleep diary into an exciting novel about a woman in search of herself. In understated, witty prose she offers a critique of 21st-century capitalist society, where rest is seen as an irksome pause from consumption. Night Bloomers is a captivating novel even for those of us who don’t suffer from insomnia.