Book review: An Insomniac’s Guide to the Small Hours by Ysenda Maxtone Graham and Kath Walker

Can’t nod off? Need an entertaining and amusing companion to help you while away those seemingly endless sleepless nights? Help is at hand...

Reach out for An Insomniac’s Guide to the Small Hours and you can at least laugh yourself, if not to sleep, into the welcome rays of dawn.

Kath Walker, who lives in Preston, and Ysenda Maxtone Graham are becoming an impressive double act, with Walker’s brilliantly evocative illustrations proving the perfect foil for Graham’s pithy and perceptive humour.

The two have already worked together on the illustrations for Graham’s weekly column in the Sunday Express Magazine and collaborated successfully on Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School, a witty and affectionate take on old school memories, which garnered a cult following.

Here they direct their talents at the frustrations of sleeplessness, the approach of that landmark time when you finally head for bed, the place you have wanted to be all day because you are overworked and underappreciated, and the only thing that got you out of bed that morning was the thought of getting back in it again.

So there you are... in bed, on the cusp of sleep, drifting off. It’s such a relief. For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful. But then your mind wanders into territory where it should not go, from fears of dying to broken light bulbs, from redundancy to unwritten thank-you letters.

You’re in the wrong position, lying on your back like a knight on his tomb. Should your hands be on rather under the covers, do you turn towards or away from your partner, should you turn your pillow over and did you choose the wrong tog-factor for the duvet?

And there are so many things to consider doing while waiting for sleep to descend. Would it be a good moment to plough on with the book-group book, should you go and say hello to the dog (who doesn’t have insomnia, by the way) or should you go down to the kitchen and check your phone for messages?

The minutes are ticking by and you know it’s going to be another one of those nights. Those nights which seem to go on forever, when all the cares of the world weigh down on your shoulders...

This clever, comical book is the perfect gift for anyone who has ever spent a night tossing and turning, worrying about life’s worst scenarios and longing for sleep to overtake them. It’s also an amusing insight into insomnia for all those who regard the witching hours as another country!

(Short Books, hardback, £10)