All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Book Of Dreams by Nina George

on May 8, 2019

The Book Of Dreams
Nina George
Scribner
2019, 383p
Copy courtesy Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A heartwarming and magical tale about the distance one man will travel for the sake of love, from the internationally bestselling author of The Little Paris Bookshop

Henri Skinner is on his way to meet his teenage son, Sam, for the first time when he is hit by a car after rescuing a child from drowning. He is rushed to a nearby hospital where he floats, comatose, between dreams about his childhood and the secrets that have kept him from his son. Sam reads about it in the newspaper – his father is a hero, now in a coma in hospital.

After the accident, Sam waits by Henri’s bedside every day. Due to a condition called synaesthesia, Sam can sense things the doctors can’t – he can see the colours of his father’s thoughts and dreams. At the hospital he also meets Eddie Tomlin, a woman forced to confront her love for Henri after all these years, and twelve-year old Madelyn Zeidler, another coma patient and the sole survivor of a traffic accident that killed her family.

The Book of Dreams is a beautiful, bittersweet story about what love means: the exquisite stirrings of first love, the love between fathers and sons, friendship and family, life, death – and making peace with the past in order to find a future.

I read this book about two weeks ago (that’s how behind with reviews I am) and it was a little bit of a struggle for me. I was intrigued by the premise and the cover is quite lovely (although similar to something I read last year). But ultimately I think the direction of the story and the execution didn’t really work for me personally and I think how much it can work relies on how much you’re willing to suspend disbelief.

Henri is a former international war correspondent and he’s on his way to meet his son for the first time. Sam is about 13 and Henri is supposed to be going to his school for some sort of event but on the way there he stops to assist a girl in trouble and is then hit by a car for his trouble. He’s in a coma.

Sam spends almost every day by his father’s bedside, having forged his mother’s permission to be there. His mother doesn’t know about all the time he’s spending there and almost certainly wouldn’t approve. She’s married again with another child and Sam has never quite felt like he fit in there, like it’s the three of them and him looking in. What he knows about his father he seems to know from articles about him or that he wrote and his mother’s less than complimentary view. For Sam, this is still a chance to get to know the man who fathered him, hoping that he wakes up from the coma he’s in.

Eddie is Henri’s former partner, the two of them were in a relationship for several years. She laid her feelings bare several years ago only to have things end badly. She joins Sam at Henri’s bedside keeping vigil, his critical state forcing her to examine her feelings for him, her belief that she’d moved on and how their relationship came to be and end.

This book alternates chapters between Eddie, Sam and Henri. The ones from Henri’s point of view are his coma-dreams I suppose and sometimes it’s the same scenario repeated but that it ends in a different way or things change the outcome. I have to admit, I found Henri’s chapters somewhat tedious because I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t and reading about things over and over again got irritating pretty quickly. I was really enjoying Eddie and Sam’s chapters though, because they were more grounded in reality – two people forced to confront their feeling for a man with the possibility of not being able to connect with him again in a real way (for Eddie) and in any way (for Sam).

Then the book introduced another character and another direction and I found that entanglement really difficult to get on board with. I sort of felt that I knew where it might be going from not long after this character became a part of the narrative and I was really hoping it wouldn’t go that way because it was doing absolutely nothing for me. I wasn’t interested in it in the slightest. I found Sam’s immediate attachment a bit weird, to be honest and I found myself bogged down in the small practical things about if this book panned out the way that I thought it would. There were so many things that I felt weren’t particularly well explored and it was more concerned with an overarching grand gesture that really didn’t make any sense in connection to the actual story.

So yeah, I didn’t really enjoy this a lot overall. I enjoyed parts of it, mostly just revolving around Eddie and Sam. I felt they developed a nice rapport in being the two people visiting Henri in hospital as he lies in his coma. I enjoyed their connection, their conversations and their feelings. Eddie works in publishing and I loved that as well, the insights into that as it’s a small publisher. I also loved Sam’s friend at high school, who was very unique and amusing. The two of them together were very entertaining. Sam also has synesthesia which I’ve come across a couple of times but this is probably the best portrayal of it that I’ve seen in fiction.

But the rest of this story was just not for me. I didn’t connect to it, didn’t feel moved by it at all and just found a lot of it quite difficult to plough through. Henri’s chapters became a chore, something to endure before getting back to someone else and in the end, enough things about the introduced character started to overwhelm the story that honestly, I just wanted it to be finished.

5/10

Book #65 of 2019


2 responses to “Review: The Book Of Dreams by Nina George

  1. We share similar thoughts on this one 🙂

  2. I really can see how this might not be for everyone.

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