Each thing she tells you is going to be worse, but if you don’t stop this story now we’re not going to have enough time for what I have to show you.
When Amanda wakes, she knows that something is wrong. Through the darkness, the voice of a young boy tells her that she is lying on a hospital bed, but Amanda can’t remember how she came to be there. With the help of her mysterious companion, she slowly begins to piece together her memories. She had gone on holiday with her daughter, Nina: they had rented a cottage in the countryside, where they would later be joined by Nina’s father. There, Amanda had met Carla, a woman with a strange story to tell. Her son had contracted a disease that threatened his life. So, Carla had taken him to a sinister woman who promised she could save him – for a price.
Unaware of the dangers surrounding her, Amanda is dragged into a tragedy that is not of her own making. Through her friendship with Carla, she witnesses extraordinary occurrences – things that should not happen – but which are happening all around her. As she plunges into the mystery, she drags her daughter, Nina, along with her. Yet there is something wrong with the children in this village. They don’t look like Nina, and they certainly don’t act like her. Amanda is desperate to protect her child, but how can you defend against something that you don’t understand?
Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream is a compelling work of literature that harnesses the style of the ‘dream’ to create a thrilling, narrative-driven story. Through its transient style of writing, it establishes itself as an abstract novel; there are muddled conversations and nonsensical, interrupted sections of dialogue as Amanda lies in a state of semi-consciousness. This is a style that continues throughout the novel, and although it may alienate some of Schweblin’s readers, it makes increasingly more sense as the narrative progresses. As a result, a book that is seemingly complex is, in reality, not at all difficult to read. Once you progress past the initially uncomfortable writing style, the book becomes surprisingly compelling.
The story itself is chilling. The involvement of children adds a tension that has the ability to make you feel uncomfortable, even if you can’t determine exactly why. This combination of subtle terror and emotional investment turns Fever Dream into a compelling book that is extremely enjoyable to read. It is not at all difficult to finish this book in a single day: it is well written, exceptionally original, and, perhaps most notably, it is truly gripping.
To identify an issue with this novel is not at all a simple task, yet if it had to have a flaw, it would be its ending. Although the conclusion of Fever Dream is written exceptionally well, it is easy to feel unsatisfied after its final page. There are quite a few loose ends, and even though they can be interesting to think about, the story could have benefited from a little more information – particularly regarding the village and its mysterious children.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of joy to be had from the ambiguity within the very final moment of Fever Dream; this is an ending that will really make you think. There are twists in this story that will leave you reeling, but there is nothing quite like its conclusion. After reading it, you’ll feel as though your brain has been fried; it is an incredibly well-crafted book, and it is definitely one that is recommended by Literary Edits!