I was really looking forward to reading this book as I am an avid reader of Dani’s books- with her debut novel Fractured still being one of my top reads today. What I like about Dani’s books is that you are always drawn in because you really get to know the characters and I can report that this is definitely the case with While I Was Sleeping, Dani’s latest novel.
The story is about Maddie who has been in a coma for 6 years. Just before she ended up falling into a coma, Maddie was in the last few stages of planning her wedding to Ryan. They were both really excited about their big day, were excited about the final preparations and even more excited about the fact that they were expecting their first baby… but then Maddie got involved in an accident which resulted in a 6 year coma.
When Maddie comes round she cannot believe that it has been 6 years… it isn’t easy for her to get her head around and it’s even harder for her to get her head around the fact that Ryan has married someone else- Chloe- and what more, her own father gave him permission to do so. Maddie feels betrayed, but she has to focus her energy on getting better and returning home… but where is home? It’s not longer with Ryan and her father is too far away and caring for her own mother… what will happen to her now? And what happened to that baby they were expecting?
What I liked about the story was how much you get to know both Maddie and Chloe. The story is told by both of them so you can’t find yourself hating either, instead you have compassion for both- can you blame Ryan for marrying Chloe when he didn’t think Maddie would ever wake up and Chloe was there for him? But at the same time can you blame Maddie for feeling betrayed and lost and vulnerable? It makes you think about what you would do in that situation, at least it did with me, if I had a longterm coma and my husband moved on, how exactly would I cope with that?
As the book unfolds you want to keep reading to find out how it pans out and how the various relationships end up. There are some touching moments and certainly plenty of intrigue that gives this book plenty to talk about.
The only thing extra I’d liked to have included would have been to have known a bit more about Maddie’s recovery, just so it could really get you to know her courage- afterall it takes a lot of determination to cope with the immediate after affects of a coma. The long term ones- starting a new life, coping with your partner having moved on etc are well covered but those initial ones like adjusting your vision again, the feel of air and overwhelming noise that hits you when you step outside for the first time, the fear of standing up when you’ve been bed-bound for so long weren’t described. Also the details like her suddenly living alone again when she’s been institutionalised for so long, just a week stay in a hospital affects how you can adjust so 6 years must be a huge adjustment but there wasn’t anything about this within the book which was a shame. It’s not a big criticism by any means but would have given Maddie more strength and given us readers more insight into how alarming physically, recovering from a coma is.
What I liked best about the book was the fact that you get to see Chloe’s opinion too so at first you begin to dislike her because you see things from Maddie’s point of view and then you begin to get to know Chloe through her own section and begin to soften towards her but then I was also a bit suspicious of her- was she an obsessed person rather than someone who fell in love for the right reasons? My emotions kept changing from hating her, feeling sorry for her, being suspicious of her and this made me really intrigued to keep turning those pages well into the night to see how I would feel about her at the end- and no, I’m not going to give any spoilers away here! That’s what is clever about how Dani Atkins writes- she keeps you guessing, you think you know exactly what is happening with a character and then you begin to question them… it’s a clever skill to have and I wish more authors had it because it’s brilliant escapism and writing such an intense book takes time so it’ll be a long wait until the next Dani Atkins fix!
I think you’ll enjoy this story if you enjoy reading books where you can really get to know the characters and are looking for something with plenty of intrigue to read. This isn’t a complicated book, there’s no complex plot or huge long descriptions which makes this the perfect book for escapism and unwinding- when you pick up the book after a long day you don’t have to try to remember a complex plot, instead you’re easily sucked straight back in. This novel is incredibly readable yet full of depth so gives you plenty to enjoy. Another really clever read with lots of emotion from this brilliant author.