[Book Review] Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

51m2bpxji2bll-_sx352_bo1204203200_Title: Fever Dream
Author: Samanta Schweblin
Genre: Fiction, contemporary, surrealism, horror

Where I got the book: I purchased this book through Book Depository.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: A woman named Amanda is dying of poison in a rural hospital clinic. Next to her sits a strange young boy named David, but he’s not her son. David urges Amanda to recall what has happened to her, and through their conversation emerges a feverish nightmare about damaged souls, toxins, and motherly love.

“She called you a monster, and I keep thinking about that. It must be very sad to be whatever it is you are now, and on top of that your mother calls you a monster.”
– Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin

This is the first book from the Man Booker International Prize 2017 longlist that I’ve finished so far (I know, I’m slow), and it’s the kind of book that probably should be re-read immediately after you’ve finished it. It’s so short it can be read in one sitting, it’s all written in one continuous dialogue with no chapters, making it hard to find a place to stop, and I think it would reveal more and maybe make more sense after a second read.

This is a confusing novel, and I’m still not sure exactly what it is that I’ve read, but I don’t necessarily mean that in bad way. Just like the fever dream the title refers to, there are no clear images from the start. You get a hazy outline of the situation and you’ll just have to take it and go from there. You have to keep reading to understand what’s going on as no information is given to you straight away. The events unfold gradually, sometimes via detours, and there is a lot happening even though it sometimes feels like this is a story without a set plot.

The things that have happened up until Amanda’s hospitalization is told entirely through a dialogue between Amanda and David. Apart from David’s lines being written in italics, there are no quotation marks that distinguish them from each other. A novel that is literally a wall of text in the form of one long dialogue took some getting used to for me, and I’m glad it’s such a short book. Once I got used to it however, I was hooked and kept turning pages in search of answers.

I really love the writing in this book. It’s so smooth and fittingly dreamlike. The overall atmosphere is sluggish and confusing. Everything feels uncomfortable and stuffy, there’s a constant, lingering feeling of dread and evil, but it’s spellbinding at the same time. Schweblin creates imagery that is absolutely beautiful, despite the creepy story.

It’s also hard to place this book in a certain genre. So many interesting themes slowly emerge throughout the book, such as superstition, the use of toxins, and the lengths a mother is willing to go to save her child. You can read this book as a cautionary tale, both on the realistic and on the more supernatural side. This is in many ways an eco-horror, where it demonstrates the reality of toxins and the widespread damage it can do. At the same time you have a supernatural element in the background that concerns the effect of people’s superstitions, but whether this element is real or metaphorical or the result of a delusion is unclear. The form of this story is surreal but at the same time it’s a very realistic tale. It’s safe to say I haven’t read anything like it before and in a way I love that it is so difficult to place.

I did enjoy the story progression in itself more than the eventual conclusion, probably because we know from the start where it’s all headed; it’s already revealed in the book’s summary. I also think that if the book was any longer I would have found it tiresome in all its elusiveness and obscurity, but overall I really enjoyed this. It’s a book that definitely won’t be for everyone, but I recommend this if you don’t mind a bit of confusion and weirdness, and if you’re interested in a unique and unsettling read.

Author information on Goodreads: Samanta Schweblin
Link to book on Goodreads: Fever Dream
Link to review on Instagram: Fever Dream review


Author: AnnReadsThem

Books messed up my circadian rhythm.

15 thoughts on “[Book Review] Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin”

  1. Awesome review! I really want to read this one. I haven’t actually read any of the Man Booker International longlist noms yet, I’ve gotta step it up! I may just wait for the shortlist and focus on those…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Rachel! Haha yeah I feel I should have just waited for the shortlist XD I have the Explosion Chronicles and I’m waiting to get Swallowing Mercury. I’ll probably also get The Unseen because it’s by a Norwegian author, but other than that I’m not sure if I’ll read any more from the longlist. At least for now! I have so many other things to read lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Fever Dream’s been getting enough buzz that it’s almost definitely going to be shortlisted, so I don’t think it will have been a wasted effort! (Well, not ‘wasted’ either way if you enjoyed it, but still…)

        The one I really want to check out is War and Turpentine, but ugh I know I have so many other things to read too!! The stress of balancing new releases and award winners and random stuff that’s been on my bookshelf for years is so real.


      2. I agree! lol I mean I’ve only read this one but yay if it gets shortlisted! And I feel you, I get all stressed when I add a new award nominated book to my TBR just because I read a nice review of it on IG or on here. And then I get stressed about the books I already have but haven’t read yet. The struggle is real.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It is so real. And it doesn’t help that I’m interested in so many genres – I sort of envy bloggers who stick to one genre. That has to be less stressful, right?! But I refuse to change my ways, I say as my TBR reaches astronomical heights and I go broke.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Same omg, I’m interested in different genres too, like I try to read as broadly as possible. And I’m really happy with that but there’s SO. MUCH. lmao and that is literally me, I always used to say “well as long my TBR is shorter than my read-list” but that’s not a thing anymore on my goodreads haha

        Liked by 1 person

      5. My TBR is somehow MIRACULOUSLY shorter than my read list, but only by about 30 books, so we’re rapidly approaching the day my TBR takes over. There is just so much!!! I think if everybody can just hold off on publishing any new books for the next couple of years and let us all catch up, that’d be great.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. And it’s not like I’m just adding a bunch of stuff, I genuinely want to read them! It’s like, a bucket list? Nah, I got a TBR hahaha. I’ll still be adding books when I’m 80 and go “ugh my TBR is longer than my read list” lol

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Same!!! Like I legitimately read multiple reviews before I add something to my TBR, it is not a haphazard process at all. And still the list is out of control. Those posts about ‘the average person reads this many books in their lifetime’ give me so much anxiety – like nope, not interested in your statistics!! I’m gonna read all of the books before I die!!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Me too! And even if I remove a book or two it doesn’t exactly matter much lol. Oh GOD don’t even mention that, in that case I’m an outlier lmao. “At one point it’s gotta stop” I think as I add another book to my TBR.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I was just like ‘I should put a moratorium on adding books to my TBR for like a month’ but I know I’d end up writing them down on random pieces of paper so it would totally defeat the purpose. There is no defeating the TBR!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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