IN THE DREAM HOUSE by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf, November 2019
I finished In the Dream House a few weeks ago but I haven’t found myself able to rise to the challenge of reviewing this book. It’s one of the best things I’ve read all year; one of the best memoirs I’ve read ever. My instinct is to say that this book won’t be for everyone due to its highly inventive structure, but where I find that literary invention tends to be alienating, Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir is so fiercely personal that I doubt anyone could accuse it of being emotionally removed.
In the Dream House tells the story of an abusive relationship that Machado was in with another woman in her 20s; she draws the reader into the alarming reality that she lived for years, with just enough of the abuse detailed that it avoids gratuity while still becoming a sickening, terrifying read, oddly reminiscent of an old-fashioned horror film. This book is written in first and second person, with present-day Carmen speaking to past-Carmen, allowing her to display a vulnerability to the reader that can be hard to achieve in even the most open of memoirs.
Machado is very conscious of the fact that she’s written a singular, pioneering text; there’s commentary woven throughout the narrative about how woefully under-researched the subject of abuse in queer female relationships is. In contrast with the cultural misconception that women cannot abuse each other, she integrates references to myth, literature, history, and scholarship into her own story, heightening the timelessness, the commonality of her own horrifying experiences.
This is a chilling, clear-eyed, conceptually brilliant text that I sincerely hope reaches the readers who need it the most. Highly recommended.
Thank you to Graywolf for the comp copy; this did not impact my rating in any way.
You can pick up a copy of In the Dream House here on Book Depository.