DREAM HOUSE by Alison Habens


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 High on energetic wordplay if a bit low on substance, this British debut somersaults its characters into the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland. Prim and prissy Celia Small wants to get married. In fact, it has been the primary impulse of her life, dating back to the early entries of her scrapbook, her girlish hand spelling out domestic bliss. Everything has been planned, right down to the pale blue silk of her engagement dress. Only the groom is missing--that last, least predictable aspect--but when mousy Ken proposes, Celia knows her real life can begin. Her engagement party, having been planned so far in advance, should go off without a hitch, but Celia's adolescent outlines didn't take into account her now much hated housemates: gloomy Phoebe and hippie Cath, who's throwing a Wonderland party that not only requires everyone to show up in character but makes them stick to their roles and keep to their lines. A series of small in-laws disasters sends Celia from her room in tears--and down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, where she ingests quite a few psychedelic jam tarts before being mistaken as the Alice of the party. Things get curiouser and curiouser as plotting from the classic comes to life and Celia wanders into her reclusive housemate Dodge's rooms. His odd behavior makes Celia think he secretly loves her, and in his way he does--though what he really wants is to be her. Donning a long blond wig and Celia's dress, Dodge becomes Celia/Alice while Celia rummages through his closet for a new personality, abandoning her engagement party for good. With mistaken identities all around, attempted rapes, murder, and even an appearance by Glenda Jackson, the story hip-hops in and out of chaos as Celia tries to find the real Celia. Clever and imaginative by turns, Habens's debut relies so heavily on allusions and devices that in the end it fails to create any concern for the characters.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14086-X
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1996