Book Review: The Dream Walker

Author: Victoria Carless
ISBN: 978 0 7344 1747 3
Publication Date: 27 June,2017
Publisher: Hachette
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

“The Dream Walker” is a novel that I didn’t enjoy as much as I wanted to. The first line grabbed my attention, and the characters engaged me, but ultimately I found the conclusion of the novel let me down.

Lucy Hart is seventeen, and eager to finish school. It’s her ticket out of the small, dying hamlet she lives in. Only fifteen families, most of them dependent on fishing to make a living. The only other option is the meatworks. But the fish have stopped biting, and the townsfolk are sinking further into poverty by the day.

Lucy and her friend Polly have a plan to escape. But first they have to finish school, survive the harassment of some of the local teenage boys, and somehow save enough money. Beyond this, Lucy has other problems. Her mother is dead, and her father withdrawn and uncommunicative. Even more unsettling, Lucy seems to have developed a new ability: she can enter the dreams of others. Is this a blessing or a curse?

Carless is an evocative writer, and this novel has a strong sense of place. The creek and the surrounding bush come to life vividly. The sense of time is less strong, perhaps deliberately; mobile phones don’t have reception, and none of the townsfolk seem to have the money for computers, TVs, or other technology. It’s largely absent from the novel. This contributes to the sense that Lucy is trapped, and there are few avenues of escape open to her.

This is a young adult novel, and the characters will strike a chord with many younger readers: the need to do at least some of the things the adults in their lives require, the utter boredom of a life they haven’t chosen, the dreams of escape to the city. Lucy’s grief is understated, and drawn in a way that most readers will be able to empathise with. Her reaction to her own dream walking will also likely strike readers as very real.

Relationships, too, are strongly depicted, particularly friendships. This is where much of the strength of the novel lies, the elements that readers are most likely to remember positively. To me, these were far more important than the dream walking.

I found the novel readable, and I cared about the characters. The ending, however, disappointed me. The choices Lucy ultimately makes spoke to me of despair and giving up. I acknowledge that Carless probably intended them to represent hope and understanding, but that’s not how it felt to me. I think whether you enjoy the novel or not will turn very strongly on how you read the last ten pages.

This was a novel worth reading, despite my disappointment with the ending. It’s well written, and has many strengths, not least the fact that it’s a little different to the majority of young adult novels, and will perhaps encourage readers to broaden their reading interests.

This guest review was submitted by Lorraine Cormack, one of our long-time Beauty and Lace Club members. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lorraine.

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