There are some books that you want to like but, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t get them. ‘Fever Dream’ by Samanta Schweblin was one of those books for me. I’d heard about the book a long time back. Translated from Spanish, it was supposed to be a good one. But every time I picked up the book, I’d lose interest in it after a few pages. I thought it was me and not the book. This time, I’m boldly going to declare it’s the book and not me. I’ve given it enough chances. There is something about the narrative that’s very confusing.
Let me tell you that there are rave reviews of the book on the internet. But don’t be fooled. I think much of the publishing world is about praising authors when they least deserve it. If you can’t understand it or if it seems bizarre, then it must definitely be good right? The problem with the narrative of Fever Dream is that everything is haphazard and you have to piece together what might have happened based on the vague information. Sometimes, you don’t even know who’s talking unless they take names or you find yourself going back a few pages to make sense of things.
The premise is interesting. It’s just poorly executed. A woman named Amanda and her daughter, Nina, are at their holiday home in the countryside. Here, Amanda becomes friendly with a woman named Carla who tells her that her eight-year-old son, David, isn’t wholly him. His soul has ‘transmigrated’ into another body. This boy, Carla says, is a monster. Amanda thinks Carla is delusional. What else could it be?
But as Amanda lies dying at a hospital and David interrogates her about the events leading up to her sickness, she begins to relive the day by the end of which both she and Nina had been poisoned. She wonders whether Carla was indeed telling the truth but David dismisses them as ‘stories his mother tells’.
As all this goes on, you, the reader, are left wondering what’s real and what’s not. It could have been a fascinating read had it not been so weirdly creepy and all over the place. Fever Dream is a short book. There isn’t much space to beat around the bush. But that’s exactly what the story does and that’s why it feels so tedious.
Translated by Megan McDowell
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Pages: 151, Paperback