The Right Hand of Sleep: Book summary and reviews of The Right Hand of Sleep by John Wray

The Right Hand of Sleep

by John Wray

The Right Hand of Sleep by John Wray X
The Right Hand of Sleep by John Wray
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

Oskar Voxlauer is in flight from his past—from his bourgeois Austrian upbringing; from horrific memories of fighting on the Italian front in 1917 as a teenage recruit; and from the twenty years he has spent in the Ukraine watching his socialist ideals crumble and the life of the woman he loved slowly waste away. Alone, he finally decides to return to the Austrian village of his birth, where his mother is waiting to greet a son she hasn’t seen since he was a boy.

But the year is 1938, and despite Oskar’s attempt to live a reclusive existence as a gamekeeper in the hills, he cannot escape the tensions that are threatening the once tranquil village of Niessen. Hitler marches into Austria and the Black Shirts come to the valley. Voxlauer watches as his Jewish friend and benefactor is driven to ruin. The only things saving him—a 'Red,' a deserter and a 'Yid lover'—from the attentions of the SS seem to be the respect the community has for his parents and his growing love for the mysterious Else Bauer, cousin of the new SS Führer.

In his extraordinary first novel, John Wray has given both a poetic evocation of the Austrian landscape and an acute portrait of the dark side of its past. His subtle and human understanding of the ambiguities of history, the complexities of his characters and the stunning richness of his prose mark him as one of America's most gifted new writers.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Wray's first novel displays psychological acuity, a mastery of dialogue and an unfailing historical empathy, and should garner deserved raves." - Publishers Weekly.

"More a character study than a moral tale, this is a quietly memorable first novel." - Library Journal.

"Brilliant. ... A truly arresting work of fiction.... Is it really possible, the reader will wonder, for a young American to have written such a book?" – The New York Times Book Review.

"Elegantly written, hypnotic." – The Washington Post Book Review.

"Studded with precise, exquisite descriptions ... Wray is capable of writing with almost painful tenderness.... The Right Hand of Sleep make[s] another time seem astonishingly alive." – Chicago Tribune.

"Wray's novel is hampered by several instances of inconsistent characterization .... Equally confusing are the italicized sections that initially represent Voxlauer's flashback monologues but then turn into Kurt's own recollections late in the book. Such stylistic lapses weaken Wray's otherwise tight web of small-town relationships." - Book Magazine.

"A first novel that's really about something, blessedly free of authorial navel-gazing." - Kirkus Reviews.

This information about The Right Hand of Sleep was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Alexander Gilgamesh

unqualified reviewer
This book is quiet and moves along at an enjoyably slow pace. I felt an atmosphere and sense of space as I read it and could read it again right now. I look forward to reading his other books and take pride in such a debut

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

John Wray Author Biography

John Wray, whose mother is Austrian and whose father is Californian, was born in Washington, D.C., where his parents, both scientists, were employed by the National Institute of Health. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, and in Friesach, a small town in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia. When he was a boy, his mother began reading Penguin Classics at a rate of exactly one per week, as a way to improve her English: one of his fondest memories of childhood is of having the entirety of The Pickwick Papers read to him at far too young an age, and understanding next to nothing, but loving the sound and mood of it regardless.

In the hope of following his parents into science, Wray majored in biology at Oberlin College, intending to become an ornithologist; in the end, he had to ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview

Other books by John Wray at BookBrowse
  • Lowboy jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...
  • Book Jacket: Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    by Kevin Wilson
    The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with ...
  • Book Jacket: Foster
    Foster
    by Claire Keegan
    Irish author Claire Keegan is experiencing a surge in popularity, thanks to the selection of her ...
  • Book Jacket
    Dr. No
    by Percival Everett
    Percival Everett's novel Dr. No follows Wala Kitu, a professor of mathematics at Brown University ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Set in India, a tender and evocative novel about love across a cultural divide, familial devotion and betrayal.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Izquierdo
    by Rubén Degollado

    A masterful debut that weaves together the lives of three generations of a Mexican American family bound by love, and a curse.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.