I always make it a point to read at least a few of the Booker-nominated titles each year. The first was Judas by Amos Oz – not a book I wholeheartedly enjoyed, but Oz is such a beautiful writer I thought it was worth a look.
Samantha Schweblin’s Fever Dream is a very different kind of book. A fast-paced novella, Fever Dream is a chilling mystery that is never fully solved. This will alienate some readers straight away. And even though I too was somewhat frustrated by the lack of resolution, Schweblin’s story is a hard one to put down.
The story begins in a darkened hospital room. Amanda is near death, and telling her story to David, the enigmatic son of a neighbour. David urges her to recount her last 24 hours to identify the exact time the ‘worms’ took over and caused her death.
In recounting her time in the Argentinian countryside Amanda ends up telling David about a conversation she has with Carla, David’s mother. She is worried about David – ever since a psychic transmigrated his soul in order to save his life. She calls this new David “a monster”. Amanda is worried for her child Nina too. Something is strange about this landscape, and she feels the “rescue distance” (the space between her and Nina that she feels is safe) is getting smaller and smaller.
David is a hard task-master, shaping and cutting off Amanda’s narrative, focused on getting to the story of the worms. And something is definitely wrong here. Schweblin’s all-pervading and lasting sense of foreboding is inescapable.
I doubt you’ll be able to put Fever Dream down. I don’t know whether you’ll find it entirely satisfactory at the end, but you’ll be impatient to get there.