One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep – and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town.
Those affected by the illness are displaying levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams – but of what?
I picked up The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker on the merit of its rather eerie cover and the intriguing blurb. I honestly don’t know what I expected from this novel. I do know though that I was simultaneously caught up in and a little confused by the writing style and tone. So much so that I got to the end and wasn’t too sure how to feel about this novel at all.
I have a feeling that reading a novel about even just a fictional and contained epidemic wasn’t the best decision with everything going on at the moment. It was eerie, and almost haunting with the rather removed narrator, who tells the story with very little emotion. I was however able to create an emotional connection with the story and its characters. I think that was the main reason I continued reading the novel, even with the uneasiness I felt throughout. This was definitely encouraged with the current state of things.
The other issue I think I had is that the narrative jumped between characters each chapter, not allowing me to gain a really connection into the story through any of them. I usually need at least one character I can connect with to invest myself in the story. It was because of this that I felt I was only just grasping onto the narrative threads through the intrigue of the story itself. I did connect a little to Mei, I think this was due mostly to her being the first character we’re introduced to, and she seems to become the most active within the story as well.
Despite the number of writing techniques within this book that weren’t my favourite, and the fact that the book disturbed me a little, I can say that this book was a captivating read. It was also one which sort of hit me in the chest a little once I had finished it and left me still thinking about it long after I finished reading. Thompson Walker has a beautiful way with words which carried me through the story, and allowed the more detached narrator to shine.
Would I read it again? Probably not. Would I recommend reading it though? If you like a book which is a little different with beautiful prose and a captivating story, then yes. The Dreamers is a story which is a little eerie and a little haunting, with the perfect mix of heart wrenching and hopeful. The Dreamers is something special.