Published: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
I don’t remember what has happened or what has changed. I can still hear your voices but you can’t seem to hear me. I was about to be married and had everything to look forward to. Now I have to find a way back – to you, to our family, to us.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for kindly sending me a review copy.
The opening chapter of While I Was Sleeping is absolutely fantastic. Readers meet three characters who are all setting the scene for what is about to be a very explosive narrative: Firstly, we meet Maddie; the lead character who is having extra fabric added into her wedding dress as nobody aside from her future husband knows about the bundle of unexpected joy that she is carrying. Secondly, Ryan; the fiancé, the businessman, the man who would do anything for his future wife and thirdly, the bald man in all black; nobody knows his name, what he does for a living, but all we know is that he accidentally appeared in Maddie’s Facebook photo only a few hours ago and now, he seems to be following her around London. Instantly, these three characters allowed the plot to quickly become fast paced, thrilling and slightly scary as Maddie takes a turn for the worse and finds herself in hospital, unable to answer anyone, unable to walk down the aisle.
“I was halfway across the zebra crossing and could see the entrance to Fleurs a short distance up ahead, when it occurred to me that in a city as large as London, how weird was it to randomly bump into the same stranger in two different locations?”
When Maddie eventually awakens from her coma, everything has changed and so much has happened in the six years in which she has been asleep. As the passing years are revealed to her, she learns a lot about the lives of Ryan, her parents, her friends, her co-workers but more importantly, about Hope. Maddie quickly comes to terms with everything that has changed around her and soon enough, she is back on her feet, renting out a new apartment and ready to tackle the new adventure that is Hope. It is most certainly a unique story as Dani writes with such ease as she guides the readers through the chapters and as the first part of the plot came to a close, she introduces a new character into the fictional world who instantly became a bump in the road for Maddie to overcome. Jealously plays a big factor into this particular side storyline and it was very interesting to see how Maddie would deal with the rather uncomfortable situation that is Chloe. It was crystal clear that she was still madly in love with Ryan (I mean, he did sound like a dream boat) and readers need to remember that six years have passed for some but it only seems like minutes to Maddie. This was a very clever concept in which Dani introduced to the plot.
“Give us all a minute, or better still, give us all a decade or so to get past this bizarre and unprecedented situation.”
The plot smoothly flows into the second part in which readers here from Chloe, a female character who has taken over the role of wife and mother within the six years that Maddie has been gone. As first, readers will have their reservations about Chloe and rightly so, but as she explained her side of the story, I found myself warming to her as readers learn about her volunteer work at the hospital, her kindness towards Ryan (a few “did she plan this?” thoughts entered my mind a few times) and how she actually had a lovely relationship with Maddie while she was in a coma. Dani wrote both female characters extremely well; they were both strong, independent women who both knew what they wanted in life – a husband, children as well as an enjoyable career.
“I’d certainly never felt an emotion like it before in my entire life. I felt like I was standing on the edge of something so bright and beautiful, that looking too closely would damage my eyes. Damage all of me.”
It isn’t a Dani Atkins novel without an emotional twist and so, as the pages drew into the 400 mark, heartbreak became part of their everyday routine all over again. The words on the pages flowed so effortlessly as Dani described each scene with such delicate attention to detail which allowed the plot to be even more beautiful. The relationship between Maddie and Chloe wasn’t always rainbows and flowers, but when the two women realised that they needed to get along for the sake of Ryan and another character (no spoilers here!), they surprisingly got on very well and they got into the swing of how their complicated lives would tangle together.
“Rain was beginning to lash against the windows and daylight was fading, setting long mysterious shadows free to dance upon the walls.”
Words cannot describe how much I absolutely loved this book and how Dani managed to connect the four lives together. However, there is one element which I felt was missing and it sat in the front of my mind for majority of the book: Who on earth was the man chasing Maddie around London right at the beginning? In all honesty, I was surprised that it was left out as it was the reason that Maddie ended up in a coma. Nevertheless, I inhaled the book within two days as the plot was so unbelievably addictive with such mesmerising characters and the plot – that was just superb from start to finish.
This is most definitely the best book I’ve read of 2018.