Thanks to Library Clerk Pam Murray for sharing her thoughts on “The Book of Dreams” by Nina George. You can check out this book in hard copy when the Library reopens. George’s other books are available as ebooks and audiobooks in the READS catalog.
Just before leaving the Library on the last night we were open, I grabbed “The Book of Dreams” by Nina George. I had read George’s other book, “The Little Paris Bookshop”, and quite enjoyed it. But I had no idea what I was in store for as I opened this latest book of hers. In a slow crescendo while reading — and it did seem a bit slow for awhile — I became more and more entranced.
I feel as though the book cast a spell on me, but I don’t expect everyone to feel this way. I believe books often come to us when we need them. As stated in the book, “That’s the magic of literature. We read a story, and something happens. We don’t know what or why, nor which sentence was responsible, but the world has changed and will never be the same again.”
The main character, Henri Malo Skinner, has just jumped into the Thames and saved a young girl who fell off a boat. As he brings her up to the bridge for assistance, he is struck by oncoming traffic and ends up in a coma. He had been on his way to see his 13-year-old son, Sam, who he has not seen in years. Sam is a synesthete. I did not know what that meant before reading this book, but it means having more sensory receptors than normal, providing a barrage of sense impressions far from what “normal” people have.
Henri is in an ICU and visited each day by Sam and a woman named Eddie. The narrative is told from the perspectives of these three characters; Henri (in his coma), Eddie, and Sam. There are other interesting characters as well. Among them are the doctor they call God, and Madelyn, an 11-year-old who is hospitalized and also not conscious.
The theme of the in-between space, between life and death, is the most fascinating exploration of this book. Henri’s life becomes out of kilter in his comatose world. In his coma dreams he relives poignant, significant moments in his life, experiencing different versions of them, often startling to the reader, yet captivating. What if you made a different choice at points in your life then you actually did? This is his search, finding the meaningfulness of his life, and what possibly lies in the suspension between life and death. A strong accompanying theme is what people do for the love of another person.
I appreciate George’s beautiful writing, the imaginative talent in her choice of words, and her descriptions. There are a few parts that perhaps fit too neatly into the story. However, these moments do not take away from the joy of finding gems and treasures in her writing — poignant phrases like “Maddie’s house watches us drive away” or “Sunlight is flooding through every window in my day”. Then there is her description of Oxford: “Novels are born here, Sam, and some people even say that stories lurk in the shadows of the parks and houses and streets until someone walks past whom they trust to tell them properly. Then they attach themselves to that person and don’t let them go until the person has written them down.”
In “The Book of Dreams”, it seems Nina George found a story attached to her that she had to write. The story certainly reached out and attached to me. Reading it, I was consistently reminded of the joy of reading a story that transports you, makes you feel like you are an invisible person there with the characters, making choices and searching for meaning. I was happy to be a passenger on Nina George’s journey of words and worlds.
Your Library’s staff members love giving recommendations! If you need something new to read, let us know and we can help find books and authors that are perfect for you. While we’re closed, you can contact us here or via direct message on Facebook and Instagram. Follow us on social media for more book and digital resource recommendations.