The Cure for Sleep, Tanya Shadrick


I knew The Cure for Sleep would be special because so many writers I respect had posted about it or reviewed it. It is one of those books which rewards artists, or potential artists, or perhaps any sort of a person at all, with the feeling of being ‘seen’ because they too, like author Tanya Shadrick, wish to live the sort of wildly fulfilling life that means they will never again care for sleep, or lack of it.

This is Shadrick’s memoir of her commitment to a creative life. It tells how she survived an extremely poor and neglectful upbringing and found a solid career in academia and a steady relationship. But, jolted awake by near death in childbirth, she turns away from all that is known and stable to pursue art, to understand that as her truth, to remain faithful to it above all else.

So this is a story about how a woman and a wife and a mother can prioritise art in her life. It is not about finding balance, although Shadrick does have a supportive husband. It is also a story about where she came from and how to make peace with that and with her mother, leading to a startling ending I was utterly unprepared for.

If you care about art, and know of or are interested in the struggle to find priorities and order in any kind of a life that includes art, this is for you. It is a strong book - Shadrick has a determination that could move mountains. She is unapologetic, defiant, decided. This is a book to remember and re-read when I need a bit of a kick up the ass.

Buy The Cure for Sleep (Orion, £16.99) from