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Man Booker International Short List 2017: Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

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Next up in Book Worm’s journey through the International Man Booker 2017 shortlist is Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin. Book  Worm and guest reviewer Tracy both read and reviewed this book. Check out what they thought.

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Published: January 2017
Original language: Spanish (first edition 2014)
Reviewed by: Book Worm and Tracy
Find it/buy it here: Fever Dream

This ARC was provided by Oneworld Publications (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Tracy thoughts: The two characters in this very short novel are Amanda and David, and they are holding a conversation while Amanda is lying in a bed, extremely ill. Both have been poisoned by farm chemicals.

Their conversation has the initial feel of a confession. Amanda has a parent’s obsession with escape plans to protect her daughter, and she is ruthless with her questions to David about how his mother “saved” his soul by taking him to a local healer. David has a much more important point he wants Amanda to see, and he guides her to see the big picture- the poison itself, and how many it affects.

I closed this book, and decided I needed more time to think about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

The dreamy feel of this book, the visuals I got while reading it, they were so vivid. I could see the green of the grass, I could see the dappling sunshine on the water of the creek through the trees. I could feel Amanda’s fever burning her, and her obsession with keeping her child safe. I could smell the horses, and even the poisonous chemicals.
Above all, I could feel the fear building up as David brings Amanda to the point he is trying to make, as he keeps telling her to “look for the worms.” I was looking over my shoulder, afraid that I had my own David, either standing behind me, or in my head, telling me to look for my own worms. It was creepy, yes. But also enlightening. Isn’t that what a good book is supposed to do?
Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Book Worm’s thoughts: Since Tracy’s review provides a thorough synopsis, I will concentrate on how this book impacted me.

This book gets full marks for writing quality, originality, plot development, and overall enjoyment. I have not read anything quite like this before. From the opening sentence Schweblin builds the tension. The story is menacing, disconcerting and unsettling. It appears to be a simple dialogue between 2 characters, but who are those characters? What is real? And, how will we know what is the “important thing” when we reach it in the narrative? Nothing is straightforward and everything has more than 1 interpretation. Is this all just the fevered dream of a dying woman or a nightmarish reality that is drawing subtly yet inextricably to it’s inevitable climax?

My first thought when I finished this book was, “wow.” That feeling has remained with me even several weeks after finishing the book. I truly believe that Fever Dreams is one of those books that will play on the reader’s mind for years to come.

Some people may be put off by the fantastical story, but for me the absolute craziness makes this a book worth reading.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality 5/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total 19/20

 

Combined Overall rating: 18.5/20

My ranking of shortlist books to date:
1. Fever Dreams (18.5/20)
2. Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (17/20)

Want to try it for yourself? You can purchase your copy here: Fever Dreams

We want to hear from you! Have you read the book? What did you think? If you haven’t read it, is it a book that appeals to you?

 

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