Books · Reviews

Book Review: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre: Memoir, LGBT+, adult, autobiography

Content warning: Abuse, manipulation, homophobia

Summary: For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.

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Many people refuse to give non-fiction books a rating, somewhat equating reviewing a non-fiction story to reviewing someone’s life-experience, and I completely disagree with that idea. I’m not here to pass judgement on anyone else’s life, but simply to reflect on how this story was transmitted to us, the audience.

First things first, this is not an easy read. It is a story about abuse, and it dives deep into it. You can feel the desperation the author felt perfectly, and it isn’t pretty. Despite all of this, the author adds some more light-hearted or even optimistic chapters of her present-day life, which make a great job of breaking the harsh and dark tone and making the book less harrowing to read. However, despite thinking these chapters were necessary at times, there were some instances where I didn’t feel any interest in what was being told — she went on a tangent describing with lots of detail a Stark Trek scene, and I found myself drifting.

One of my favourite aspects was how it is a very fast read thanks to the formatting of the chapters. They’re mostly very short and it makes the narrative flow perfectly. It took me a few chapters to get used to the writing style — it is quite peculiar at times — but after that, I was really immersed into the story.

She also brings up some very interesting topic and makes some great points about them. One of my favourites was when she discusses language and how sometimes it limits our capacity to understand a particular situation.

“Putting language to something for which you have no language is no easy feat.”

Additionally, the discussion of queerness is present throughout the book. She pays special attention to what it means to be — or more specifically, what it means to be perceived as — a queer woman.

Overall, I think her resolution to share her story of abuse is amazing, because it surely will help lots of people in her situation, specifically sapphic women in abusive relationships. It will also shine a light on a topic that has not been addressed and even thought to be an impossible situation, because can a woman even be abusive to another one? (spoiler alert: yes, she can). Not only that, but she also manages to create an engaging, and somehow not totally upsetting, narrative.

Have you read In the Dream House? What are your thoughts? Do you have any other memoir recommendations?

5 thoughts on “Book Review: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

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