Saturday, November 10, 2007

Book Review: "Dream Boy"

As readers of the much-praised comedy-of-manners of Jane Austen might guess, "Dream Boy" is poised for classic greatness. In this epic romance, blessed with intellectual curiosity, a sharp wit and a fanciful imagination, Ann Reit seems unlikely to produce anything less than a feat of style.
Gwen Warren, a youthful maiden, spends her days frittering her time watching the ebb and the tide, until she is interrupted one day by the playful shouts of debaucherous teens. One of them, an ethereal Adonis with tawny-coloured locks, captures her heart with a reciprocated smile. Thus begins one of the greatest literary romances ever penned in Western Literature.
Gwen's desire for a relationship conflicts with her own striving and success, self-doubt — inspired by her mother, the furtive ghost of this collection. This is the creative sine qua non she finds missing in the Dream Boy (Jack), whose identity, she judges, depended on the “ruthless suspension” of such anxiety.
The integrity of their blossoming relationship hangs upon Gwen's discovery of Jack's watch on Tessa's wrist, and even more on her disbelief of blossoming jealousy and anxiety.
This is not a novel of deft aper├žus. Reit’s characters all have their own distinctly idiosyncratic speech, and it comes in torrents. No one is at a loss for words. Tessa in particular is so full of ideas, opinions and observations that she seems often to choke on them all.
By the end of the book I was wallowing in a state of confusion but also sadness. But looking through its pages again I found one tiny comic gem after another, one pitch-perfect rendering of the modern moment after another. The book is always alive. I felt the odd bittersweetness that occurs when you read fiction that not only confirms your sense of the modern world - but enlarges it.

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