by Chandra Sundeep
Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

Insomnia is the latest psychological thriller novel by Sarah Pinborough, the acclaimed author of Behind Her Eyes. I had watched the series on Netflix and found it quite gripping and had been waiting to read Pinborough’s works. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to read Insomnia.

This unsettling, mind-bending thriller revolves around Emma Averell, a high-profile divorce attorney who has everything she has ever wanted. She has a wonderful stay-at-home husband, two loving children, and a beautiful suburban home. However, her life wasn’t always perfect. When Emma was five years old, she and her older sister, Phoebe, faced a harrowing crisis when their mother turned 40. Placed in foster care, the sisters drifted apart from each other and a sudden visit from Phoebe, 12 days before Emma’s 40th birthday, brings about a wave of insomnia that sends Emma into a frenzy.

As Emma struggles with insomnia, her mind races with obsessive thoughts—what if she really is going off the rails like her mother, whose psychotic descent began when she was about to turn 40, and it started with insomnia? Increasingly exhausted, she bungles client conferences and snaps at her husband and their two children. Emma is about to lose everything she has worked hard for when an emergency call from Phoebe tricks her into a situation that places her as a suspect in a murder investigation.

The author’s immersive writing style, along with an unreliable narrator, enhances the mystery factor.

Character development is one of the strong points here. The multi-faceted characters with varying levels of trustworthiness and likeability offer a nice variety.

Though Emma’s character is portrayed in a cliché manner—successful at work, overworked mom, perceived as unfriendly by others. It is not impossible to empathise with her and understand her fears and changing behaviour. She is not likable always but is relatable.

Pinborough’s repeated and extended depiction of insomnia is almost true-to-life and believable.

One of the interesting aspects of the story is the complex family dynamics, with the premise drawing heavily from gas-lighting.

The prologue is dramatic and shocking. Though the initial pace is slow, very slow, and even repetitive, it picks up later, and I could appreciate the emphasis on the repetition and its effect on atmosphere building.

However, the ending is not quite believable, satisfactory, or even out of the world. Having watched Behind Her Eyes, I was expecting something extraordinary, but not this far-fetched and unbelievable!

I did not like the gas-lighting and Emma’s open preference for one child over the other. She may have her reasons, but they did not gel well with me.

Insomnia is a disturbing and dark account of self-doubt, paranoia, filled with unexpected twists and thrills, and a suspended element of mysticism and disbelief.


Wordsopedia Rating 3.25/5


Title: Insomnia Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: William Morrow & Company Publication date: April 12th, 2022
Genre: Fiction – Thriller Format: Paperback
ISBN:  9780062856845 No. of Pages: 336

Buy your copy here on Amazon

About the author

Sarah Pinborough is a New York Times bestselling and Sunday Times Number one and internationally bestselling author who is published in over 25 territories worldwide. Having published more than 25 novels across various genres, her recent books include Behind Her Eyes, which will air on Netflix in January 2021.

Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and also the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. She has four times been short-listed for Best Novel. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and is currently working on three TV projects and the film adaptation of her novel The Death House.

Sarah lives in the historic town of Stony Stratford, the home of the Cock and Bull story, with her dog Ted.

Get in touch with the author on her website.


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