Bedtime Stories

You wouldn’t normally try to sell a book on its ability to send you to sleep but here is an exception to that rule. It’s taken me a while to be able to review this book because it is so effective at making me fall asleep that I have only recently heard the end. In fact, in that time, I have listened to the beginning so many times that I could probably recite it word for word. Happily, for a book that makes me so sleepy, I can honestly say that I am not yet tired of hearing it.

Bedtime Stories by Clarissa Pinkola Estés is a magical book. Estés grew up in a family of “cantadoras” (keepers of the old stories) and she uses her knowledge of the art form to weave a lullaby of words. “Stories”, she explains, “are the royal road to sleep”.

The audio book begins with Estés describing why she believes stories pave the way to sleep. Her voice is warm and gentle but there is a liveliness to it too. An excitement about the stories she is telling that draws you in and makes you forget anything else that may be vying for your attention. Estés introduces some relaxation at this stage of the audio book: “stretch out your toes like a little birdie and then let them go”. Images are an important part of these stories and the incorporation of visual ideas into the relaxation is an effective touch. In the background, a non-intrusive cello accompaniment brings the mood of select passages into sharper focus.

Seamlessly, Estés then moves onto the magical world of Narnia. Standing in the wardrobe, snuggled between the coats and then the cold air of a wintery world revealing itself. After this, the chronology of the journey that Estés takes us on becomes a little more blurred for me: by this stage of the audio book I am normally well on the way to sleep. I know that there are fairies, a princess, a mouse and a lion. There are dangers and a sense of adventure but there is never really fear. Curiosity, maybe. Yes, the overwhelming feeling is an anticipatory, excited childlike curiosity. You are driven forward bravely, desperate to know “what happens next”.

To date, I have only heard the ending once and, even now, trying to recall it, all I can really remember is my sense of delight and satisfaction in the perfection of the ending. There was something about it that instilled a sense of safety and home. Alas, I find myself completely unable to remember what it might have been. I won’t worry though. The important thing I want you to take from this review is not to be found in the detail of the ending.

No, what I want to communicate is something about the quality of the book: it is a sleepy, slightly-hazy blanket of enchantment. So if you are tired of being “put” to sleep by meditative or hypnotic exercises and instead wish for something that invites you, without expectation, into a world of dreams then perhaps try this audio book. I, for one, am completely in love with it.

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