Sleep and Loss is a deeply textured and symbolic work of fiction in which serious themes are interspersed with lighter moments.
The novel follows the interconnected stories of two women: Ellen, a medical professional, who is working on a cultural history of sleep, and Martha, an older woman who turns out also to be a grandmother to Ellen’s daughter. Ellen’s mother is lying in a comatose state in hospital. Ellen’s father leads a choir to which Martha belongs, and we see them rehearsing a madrigal entitled Come, Heavy Sleep, which he is preparing for his wife. Every member of the choir is linked together in more ways than they understand. While Ellen’s non-linear story makes use of extended flashbacks amid sleepless nights, Martha documents the rehearsals chronologically.
An ingenious series of events unfolds in this densely packed novel which ranges between classical culture and common sense, bridging the worlds of early modern music and young motherhood. Hagena’s novel has a modern European outlook which will make it just as popular in London, New York or Dublin as in Hamburg or Berlin.