In the Dream House: A Memoir

Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House: A Memoir
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In the Dream House: A Memoir

Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing experience with a charismatic but volatile woman, this is a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse.

Each chapter views the relationship through a different lens, as Machado holds events up to the light and examines them from distinct angles. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction, infusing all with her characteristic wit, playfulness and openness to enquiry. The result is a powerful book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

Review

I have a confession: I’ve been pining for this book since I saw it on the horizon over a year ago. Carmen Maria Machado is a magical writer with a penchant for the darker side of fairytale, TV, film and literary tropes. She claimed her rightful place as the queer, twenty-first century successor to Angela Carter in her debut collection of short stories Her Body & Other Parties and now she lays claim to a whole new territory of writing.

This is a heartbreaking, exhilarating and revealing memoir, where the titular dream house transmogrifies into something nightmarish as Machado details the disintegration of her relationship with a charismatic but ultimately emotionally and verbally abusive partner.

In this post-Weinstein, #MeToo era, women’s stories and experiences are being given more space than ever before, but some stories are still not being told. Machado’s book asks very important questions, including, how do we deal with abuse that, for the most part, is completely legal?

Machado herself deals with these issues in her writing though fairytale and fictional tropes, applying them to memoir and queer theory in this genre-bending tour de force. Each chapter of the book views the ‘dream house’ (i.e. her abusive relationship) through a different lens: dream house as sci-fi thriller, comedy of errors or Choose Your Own Adventure; dream house featuring an unreliable narrator or demonic possession, etc. The result is truly astounding, breaking the boundaries around memoir and providing material for an archive of queer domestic abuse. Trust me, you’ve never read anything else like this book.


Tristen Kiri Brudy works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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