Fever Dream: SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE 2017
By Samanta Schweblin
A deeply unsettling and disorientating debut novel about obsession, identity and motherhoodTweet
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Fever Dream, with its horses head on the cover and the worm imagery of the first few pages was always going to be a novel which would leave an impression with me.
I love translated fiction and also read Spanish so was keen to read this. With my friends from the Book and Brew reading group, I was pleased to read this, and then the original. The translator has to be commended as this would not have been easy to translate!
The South American gift of magical realism was woven into the overall essence of the story with ease and this for me was the novel’s strength. Ethereal and dreamlike, nightmarish at times and leaving you with a sense that you were never sure of the plot or sequence of events. I do feel that a book should have both as there were too many unanswered questions and threads which, had they been there, could have been used to great effect.
With elements of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this story had a unique feel and essence to it, and the plot surrounding the idea of ‘a rescue distance’, an underlying theme of environmental poison and deal made with a healer was both confusing and compelling.
Ultimately it made me feel that the whole novel fell short of the sum of its parts - a fever dream is confusing by nature, but the novel could have made more from the chaos. The reader has to fill in two many gaps here and the ending is as open as any I’ve read. The writing is such that I would definitely read something else from Samanta Schweblin, and/or translator MeganMcDowell though
This small book certainly packs a punch! It draws you in from the very beginning, as it starts with a death bed conversation between the main protagonist Amanda and a young boy called David. They are not related, but as the story unfolds we slowly start to piece together how they know each other. Their conversation is very dream-like and I constantly questioned the reality of it - is it a dream? Is David alive? What really happened to them both? Everyone in my book group, Book and Brew, had different interpretations on these questions, and we spent a lot of time discussing them. It is definitely a novel that leaves you with more questions than answers.
Schweblin’s unique writing style added to the sense of urgency of Amanda’s situation as she gradually built up the tension. Due to the nature of Amanda’s fever dream state it is difficult to tell what is real and by the end of the novel I still don’t know what was going on. Despite this, I still loved the book as it was incredibly atmospheric and kept me gripped right until the end. Definitely a strong contender for the Man Booker International.
Warning, do not be fooled by this little book - it packs a punch. It will grab you and simply will not let go. Whatever you had planned will be put aside for the time it takes you to read this. For suspense and terror this is a masterclass. What is a dream and what is reality is unfathomable. Top tip - read it alongside others - the chat about this is so interesting. So many perspectives and stories to be found within its pages. Read with Book and Brew as part of The MBI shadow reading, I really enjoyed this.
I read Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin as a member of the book club, ‘Book and Brew’ as part of our role as shadow judges for the Man Booker International Prize.
The mysteriously intriguing blurb immediately piqued my interest. ‘A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child.’
The compelling first lines of prose forced me to keep reading, nonsensical as the ‘worm’ references all seemed. The oddly conversational, question and answer format kept me going and drove the pace of the book allowing the author to paint the portraits of key characters. The use of present tense further placed me inside the text and firmly located in the setting which was deftly painted with well-crafted sentences allowing space for imagination to fill in the gaps.
Schweblin’s use of the term ‘the rescue distance’ was an important term for me. This reminded me of the ever-growing distances that separate a parent from their offspring as they grow older and become increasingly independent and the uneasiness this can prompt in a parent. This gave me an eerie feeling of misgiving, of worry for the safety of the characters, particularly Nina and a desire to know exactly what the overall outcome would be that kept me turning pages rapidly.
‘Fever Dream’ had a rather apt effect upon my dormant life, it haunted me in my dreams, prompting strangely lucid, abstract and surreal scenarios set in South America. The book left me with more of a feeling, a recognition of place and setting than actual understanding of plot, sequence and outcomes. This is not meant as criticism as I felt it was reminiscent of the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Overall, a disturbing, intriguing, atmospheric read which gave me an insight into a foreign land and a keen respect for anyone able to translate a piece of writing so beautifully.
More 4.5 than a straight 4 stars.
I read 'Fever Dream' as part of our book club's shadowing gig of The Man Booker International Prize. What an interesting read! At marginally over 150 pages long, this was a short and pacy read - taking about 2 hours - but my, what a mighty punch it has! This book is a masterclass in suspense and tension. I have never felt so scared and edgy reading a book whilst out and about in broad daylight! The story is delivered in the form of a death bed conversation between a seriously ill patient and the young son of a woman she has met on holiday. Ultimately, we are trying to unpick how and why Amanda is in her current predicament. We can't tell what is real or true due to the nature of Amanda's fever dream state. David's questions direct the story, controlling the unrelenting pace, and as details of his own past and possible involvement in what has happened to Amanda are revealed, the tension builds and builds. Did I finish this with a concrete idea of what actually had occurred? No! I immediately returned to the beginning and re-read it, and I'm still not that much clearer, but this is a fantastic read. It preys on some of our most primal fears, and is a thrilling ride. I would definitely recommend this. A strong contender for the prize in my view.
I would rate this 4.5 stars really.
This short novel packs one heck of a punch! It is hugely atmospheric from beginning to end, and it was so eerie and creepy that I had to check that my door was locked.
The unique set up and writing style give the tale a sense of dangerous urgency and an almost suffocating sense of dread. While some aspects of the story seem very fantastical, they are at the same time entirely plausible. Despite having read it I still don't really know what was going on - I want to reread it to try to figure it out!
A fantastic book, and a string contender for The Man Booker International Prize.
Fever Dream is more like a novella than a novel, but for its brief 151 pages it still packs a punch. The writing style is experimental and intriguing and it deals with some pretty big themes.
The book covers so many important topics, from parent-child relationships, to environmental pollution, as well as anxiety and paranoia,
Schweblin evokes exactly the feeling that the title gives – like a feverish dream. The atmosphere is oppressive, with the interview-esque conversation being directed and redirected over small details. The nature of the conversation itself is a dream-like and as readers we constantly question the reality of it – is it a dream, can it really be occurring? Is David alive? Could the transmigration have really happened?
I loved that everyone in the book club had different takes on these questions and different interpretations.
The book is haunting and chilling and really makes you think. My only issue with the book was that it was so brief, I feel like perhaps it could have been fleshed out a little more to add dimension to the story.
I very much enjoyed this book and I think it could be a real contender for the Man Booker International Prize.
I read this with my book club as an official shadow judging group for the Man Booker International Prize.
We all loved it and rattled through its 150 pages with speed.
It’s a unique premise that keeps you guessing throughout. The lines between reality and dream, truth and lies, consciousness and confusion are constantly blurred, giving a distorting effect that means you’re never quite sure of what’s going on.
The book will terrify you. The atmosphere is so tense there’s an almost tangible fear permeating the text through which you absorb Amanda’s dread.
Schweblin’s prose has been beautifully translated to retain the depth and nuances of the original. The translator deserves as much credit for the Man Booker nod as the author. The ephemeral fleetingness of the compact pages is balanced with rich suspense to create perfectly pitched prose. It echoes the traditions of magic realism honed in South America and is a book distinctly of its continent.
I can’t say we were fully certain of the outcome or circumstances of the events in the book. But we weren’t supposed to be.
The sense of confusion can be frustrating at times but is rewarded with a magnificent tapestry of threads from which you can draw your own conclusions. In fact, we debated quite a few of the plotlines and derived many and varied meanings from each of them.
Fever Dream scared us, confused us and shocked us and we loved it. It was definitely a hit with book club.
A book to read in one feverish sitting. Dark, distressing with a sense of underlying unease, it is utterly gripping and leaves you with more questions than answers…