What Dreams May Come

wdmcTitle: What Dreams May Come

Author: Richard Matheson

Summary: A love that transcends Heaven and Hell.

What happens to us after we die? Chris Nielsen had no idea, until an unexpected accident cut his life short, separating him from his beloved wife, Annie. Now Chris must discover the true nature of life after death.

But even Heaven is not complete without Annie, and when tragedy threatens to divide them forever, Chris risks his very soul to save Annie from an eternity of despair.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: What Dreams May Come is one of my favourite (guilty pleasure) films. I love it like i love the song ‘Origin of Love’ by Hedwig and the Angry Inch; that true love exists and will triumph over all—in spite of the fact i don’t believe a word of it.

I have loved the film for many, many years and the book has been on my to-read list for the last few years. I expected to love it more than the film–because the book is always better, right?

My first misgiving was the introduction by Matheson, proclaiming the only fictional part of the book were the characters. He points to his five page glossary of “research” as proof (because if it’s written in a book, it must be true?). I hope this is part of a ploy to draw the reader into the story, rather than Matheson seriously believing in the things he’s written about, but i have no way of knowing.

The book was easy enough to read. At no point was i bored, and often found myself wanting to pick it back up and continue reading. But, it was written very simply. There was a lot of tell rather than show, which may have been a part of the narrative device (the narrator is dead and transcribing the book to his brother via a psychic), but it was not as engaging as it could have been because of this. I was not drawn in to the book; the writing style and narrator’s voice kept me at a distance. I was very much the reader of a book, not immersed in the world of the book.

Some things were better than the film. The film uses a bigger tragedy within the family as a plot device surrounding Ann’s breakdown, while the book is much more subtle on this. And it works, to understand enough of Ann’s character without having to go in to the details or orchestrate more depressing plot points. So, the story overall in the book is simpler, and works better.

For my taste, there was too much information about the afterlife. Too much specific information. It was like a fantasy world you would read about in a science fiction book, rather than something as simple as a heaven-like paradise. It was at times described as a place where anything you imagine can be real, that the mind and thought is everything, but then there were also rules and laws and specific ways of doing things. It was as though Matheson thought “heaven” would be more realistic and believable if he crammed it full of fictional science. Really, it started to get dull with the details of it all.

By far the worst thing, unfortunately, was mixed up with my favourite scene. The scene it when Chris reaches Ann in her own personal hell and tries to convince her she doesn’t have to remain there. When he finally stops actively trying to persuade her and just lets himself talk to her—it’s the moment. The moment it all comes together and love conquers the impossible. So, it was hugely disappointing to me to find this meaningful speech rife with blatant sexism. I mean, thanking your wife for cooking and cleaning and baking and washing? How about the fact you should have done some yourself, you lazy fuck?

The review sounds very negative, i am aware, but despite it all, i’m in love with the story. I’m fascinated by the narrative, but disappointed in the writing. I think i would watch the film again over reading the book, but i would rate them at an even level—they could both do better.

This is the fourth book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.

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About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

4 Responses to What Dreams May Come

  1. lynnsbooks says:

    Oh dear – that’s rather disappointing! Glad it’s not put you off completely.
    Lynn 😀

  2. Lisa Lishman says:

    I just finished this book and had the same response as you! I’m glad I’m not the only one who was aghast at that horrible stuff in the “thank you” speech. “Thank you for keeping my clothes clean, our homes clean, yourself clean.” What?! It was published in 1977, so I guess it’s a generational thing….still…it’s pretty funny that this scene is what has stuck with me all day!

    • Wendleberry says:

      It was truly, truly horrible. Regardless of when it was written, i can’t forgive it. I mean, it’s the speech, him pouring his heart out to her and convincing her it’s him and… and all he’s doing is thanking her for doing the housework and not stinking the place up? It’d rather be in hell than with someone who thought so little of me!

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