THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS by Chloe Benjamin

THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Dream researchers probe the subconscious, moral responsibility and the power of dreams on waking life.

Sylvie narrates the story of her entanglement with Adrian Keller, a renegade researcher interested in lucid dreaming, and his acolyte, Gabe. Keller is the headmaster at Mills, a prep school in Northern California (having mysteriously left his university position), and Gabe is part of a group of quick-witted teenage students. Sylvie and Gabe become inseparable, though she tries to ignore his suspicious comings and goings from Keller’s cottage. And then, without explanation, Gabe leaves school and vanishes from Sylvie’s life until her final year at UC Berkeley. He begins stalking her, and when she confronts him, he asks the unthinkable—that she drop out of college and work with him as a research assistant at Keller’s sleep institute. Sylvie is still in love with Gabe, so the two work with Keller on Martha’s Vineyard, then at Fort Bragg and finally in the neuroscience department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. People with serious sleep disorders—sleepwalking and night terrors—come to learn lucid dreaming in hopes that the lucidity will help end their dangerous behaviors. In Madison they are neighbors to a flirty Finnish couple, academics who question the ethics of their research; they suggest that a person’s knowledge of his or her deepest self can be treacherous. Unfortunately, none of this is as compelling or mysterious as Sylvie’s narrative tries to make it sound. Further impairing the novel are the frequent chronological shifts used to build suspense; the flipping back and forth merely muddles the plot. As Sylvie begins to question Keller’s work, she discovers the sordid truth about everything, but the twist at the end is hardly shocking enough to excuse the slow buildup.

Though Benjamin can turn a nice phrase, this is an uneven first novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 2014
ISBN: 9781476761169
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2014




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