It started with Carla’s story about her son David. Through Carla’s words and shadowed memories, she birthed David into Amanda’s life, his presence threatening and mysterious. In her holiday home in a rural town, Amanda did not expect to befriend someone like Carla; someone beautiful and yet so damaged – haunted by her own son. When Carla’s intensity spills over into her own life, Amanda decides to leave the house early, to return to the sanity and normality of the capital, where her life and husband await.
But she doesn’t get that far. Amanda is in a hospital ward, with David. Sitting at the edge of her bed, listening, urging, waiting, David whispers at her to remember, to pay attention. As Amanda retraces her past, so delicately and fatally interwoven with David’s, she must accept that perhaps Carla was right, and that her stories, although macabre and twisted, were true.
The aptly named Fever Dream is a surreal experience. The line between recollection and reality is as fine as the edge of the pages the story spills across, luring the reader into to Amanda’s disorientation, to this whirlwind of past, present and dreams. Despite the limited space of 151 pages, Samanta Schweblin delivers a powerful experience, rich in chaos and an interrupted narrative that builds and disrupts tension like waves in the ocean.
Though it be little, it is fierce – you may be able to finish this book in a single sitting, but it will linger in your mind for hours afterwards. Diving between taboo, horror and psychological thriller, Fever Dream is just the shock to the system needed to remind us that great literature is still out there, and that it’s stylish, accessible and sexy.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin is published by Oneworld Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.