Monday, 18 July 2016

The Dreamers


Book Title: The Dreamers
Author: Gilbert Adair
Date Started: June 18th 2016
Date Completed: July 18th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Three Star
Final Rating: Four stars

The Dreamers is a lovely book - lovely, but strange. It belongs to that quirky, quiet, twisted and inventive genre that I love so much, sharing tips with the likes of The Secret History, Cassandra and The History Boys. The thing that really made it stand out for me was the love of film: these characters hold their cinémathèque at the centre of their lives and beliefs, and as a filmmaker it's a wonderful thing to read about.

There's no denying The Dreamers is a very poetic story, written in a very poetic way. The references to film culture sprinkled around was wonderful (something that was perfectly captured in the film version I might add), but sometimes I found myself detached because of the writing style. It's always hard in a poetic and at times dark story like this one to get that full immersion where the reader feels part of the story, but it almost felt like Adair wasn't even trying to get that. And maybe he wasn't, maybe that wasn't the kind of experience he wanted his readers to have, but I kept getting drawn out of the story each time it felt like the characters had a secret that I was being left out of. Again, this is part of the story towards the beginning, but I founded myself more and more distant from what was happening as the poetic style became more and more vivid, but left me behind a little.

I've seen people describe this book as 'cinema, sex and politics', and perhaps with the inclusion of romance, I'd agree. But that extra little thing is very important for me: The Dreamers is about a romance between three friends, and a romance between cinema and it's audience, between politics and the people; a romance that almost calls into question what romance is, and what justifies it. In terms of storyline, not a lot happens in this book, but metaphorically it goes through a huge transformation. Honestly, there were times when I wasn't engaged with whatever messages Adair was trying to teach me - the poetic style not quite working with me - and I was kind of waiting for something to happen. But again, at other times I was content reading about the twins and Matthew lazing about discussing classic film or their society. Yes, it sounds pretentious, and it definitely is at points, but (again, as a filmmaker) sometimes there were times when I felt myself relaxing into those circular conversations and enjoying them.
In terms of how the book comes together at the end, I think it's one of the neatest parts of the book. I read this as part of the BookTubeAThon, with the challenge to watch the film adaptation as well, and having watched the film I appreciate the book a little more. There are a few little changes between versions, and some things work better here, and some better there, but overall I think Bertolucci did a very good job of directing and seeing things happen in a physical space made their meaning clearer and more enjoyable. Having said that, the climax of the book was much more effective and ran in tune with what the overall feel of the story than the film - and the two differ quite a lot on this front - so I'm glad I read it before I watched it.

While I like the protagonists of The Dreamers, they were too shrouded in a mysterious fog to see them very well. Again, the film helped with this (the casting was perfect), but part of the reason I didn't fall in love with this book was that the characters felt like characters - not real people. Not necessarily because they weren't realistic, but because there was a divide between reader and fiction, like watching this all happen on a stage as opposed to all around you. In a way, this almost added to the narrative: you certainly felt like Matthew, included but knowing you were in the dark about some aspects of these people. But by the time we reached the end I wanted to have that personal connection to them, but I didn't.

The Dreamers felt very slow because it's a book in which there aren't very many key events, but a lot of prose in between. Because of this it feels a little slow at times, and I definitely noticed actual scenes seeming to fly by when I was reading them. However, the short length of the book worths in its favour here; it might feel a little slow but before you know it the narration has actually given you quite a bit of development and you're powering through it. I would say that the poetic style is one of the things that slows the pace down and is sometimes a little tedious, but The Dreamers is still a book you can immerse yourself in pretty easily.

This book was not what I was expecting, but it was still good. While definitely not being for younger readers (sex everywhere), it does capture the feeling of youth pretty well (both the good and the bad). Overall, I feel like it works well not knowing much about the story going in it, but if you like films and you like borderline pretentious but enjoyable dialogue, this might be one to pick up.

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