Book Review: A Sleep and a Forgetting by William Dean Howells

If I were to very crudely characterize this novella I would say it was a cross between Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier and the movie Groundhog Day without the poignance of the West or the humor of the Bill Murray.*

I am a sucker for a story of rich folk travelling through Europe in general and Italy in particular. In A Sleep and a Forgetting William Dean Howells gives us an American travelling in Italy who finds himself enmeshed in the affairs of a rich American and his daughter who developed a serious case of short-term memory loss after witnessing the violent death of her mother. What’s not to like right? I am not sure but I found this one a bit of a slog. I think it may have something to do with what Frances refers to as the antiomniscient narrative.

The Verdict: I didn’t like this one very much because it was unhelpfully opaque. Frances, tell me does the doctor marry her in the end?

*For the record I really dislike Andie McDowell as an “actress” and I have never actually seen the movie.


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