REVIEW: ‘In the Dream House’ by Carmen Maria Machado

November 5, 2021

In the Dream House

Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado’s searing account of her relationship from it’s opening breathtakingly joy of finding that special someone to a hallucinogenic plunge into twisted manipulated ferocious abuse, is a tone poem of a silent scream. Machado writes in a myriad of styles, convincing in all of them and uses this kaleidoscope to share her experiences of same-sex abuse. Parcelled up in the style of folk tales, poems, horror tropes, TV styles, and iconic fiction, we learn more about this toxic relationship, it’s a memoir told through hopes, gasps, tears, and cold hard refection.

There is a very little writing on violence in female queer relationships, ‘In the Dream House’ is an important addition and a breath-taking book and an excellent deconstruction of the dynamics of an abusive relationship, but it doesn’t feel like that. Not an easy read in any measure, certainly a remarkable one but Machado’s utter control of word, texture, meaning and narrative combine to allow her to guide us carefully through the medium of words though her own confusing, distorting and ultimately disastrous experiences of living with an abusing partner.  Written in the second person, suggesting otherness but is shockingly intimae and honest, you feel it’s your home, your girlfriend, your fault… it jars in a manipulative beguiling way. The author knows this, feels us seeing her tricks and wiles and plays with that and us like a hungry cat. The stories, some very short, leave us unsettled, knowing the truth but unable to leave. Double thinking ourselves, holding on to small things, seeing how shame and control intersect in terrifying ways.  The book is astounding, but with its clarion call of authentic experience it shows us the author not only growing stronger in a world determined to undermine and destroy, but learning, navigating and finally breaking free to document, share and convince. Machado redefines what a memoir can be and gives us a new kind of personal narrative, showing that literature transcends and transforms experience, and that is what it is for. It reminded me of ‘By Grand Central Station I Laid down and Wept’ and you don’t get a better recommendation that that.

Out now £14:99

For more info or to order or buy the book see the publishers website here: