Dream Children

Overview

"A novel that's both chilling in its depiction of a madman and biting in its portrayal of a group of self-deluding bohemians. . . . It marks a darkening and deepening of Mr. Wilson's ambition." —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Oliver Gold, the brilliant, ascetic writer and philosopher, has lived quietly and happily for eight years on the outskirts of London as a lodger in 12 Wagner Rise. His sudden decision to marry and move to America precipitates a crisis in this household of women, all of whom owe fierce, ...

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Overview

"A novel that's both chilling in its depiction of a madman and biting in its portrayal of a group of self-deluding bohemians. . . . It marks a darkening and deepening of Mr. Wilson's ambition." —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Oliver Gold, the brilliant, ascetic writer and philosopher, has lived quietly and happily for eight years on the outskirts of London as a lodger in 12 Wagner Rise. His sudden decision to marry and move to America precipitates a crisis in this household of women, all of whom owe fierce, idiosyncratic allegiance to Oliver and want to save him and their world from an unsuitable, inexplicable match. Yet in the end it is only Bobs, the twelve-year-old who is Oliver's constant companion, who knows his dangerous secret: it is from her that Oliver attempts to flee. In a series of dramatic tableaux, unfolding over the course of many years, A. N. Wilson threads the dark labyrinths of Wagner Rise and illuminates the tragic consequences of these attachments. With this provocative novel about forbidden love, Wilson has produced a stunning, haunting literary work-a Lolita for our times.
"A respectable, genuine, intellectual portrait of a pedophile that also makes for a gripper indeed. . . . Sex-tormented Oliver . . . in spite of all (and 'all' includes plenty) remains believably human, thanks to the estimably gifted Wilson." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Wicked English wit . . . has the kind of sly humor where grimness itself becomes the joke." - The New Yorker "Well written and sensitively realized. . . . [Wilson] lets the characters' fates unfold over the years and shows, touchingly, how the pain and self-deception at 12 Wagner Rise taints all their lives." - Philadelphia Inquirer

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Katukani
Mr. Wilson has modulated his usual lightcomic voice. . .producing a novel that's both chilling. . .and biting. . . .[Dream Children marks a darkening and deepening of Mr. Wilson's ambition; it's a far cry for his earlypurely comic novels. . . —The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The highly intelligent and often very funny author of a series of brainy British comic novels, including Gentlemen in England and The Vicar of Sorrows, has turned his hand to something extremely tricky here. He has imagined, quite sympathetically, a love affair (which indeed has its carnal aspects) between a brilliant middle-aged scholar, Oliver Gold, and 10-year-old Bobs, precocious daughter of the house of women where Oliver lodges in northern London. It is not only the theme that makes the reader a little anxious: Wilson's portraits of Bobs's mother, Michal, her lesbian lover Cuffe, Bobs's grandmother, Margot, and the hysteric Austrian housekeeper Lotte--all of whom have yearnings of one kind or another for Gold--are smartly satirical, whereas Gold's passion for Bobs is treated as the stuff of melodrama. Perhaps Wilson realized he couldn't joke about such things, but this odd imbalance sets the book awry. It has many funny scenes, some trenchantly observed moments and a wonderfully mordant ending, but it lacks the brilliant consistency of vision of Lolita, with which it is likely to be compared (and already has been, by its publisher). (Aug.)
Library Journal
Wilson ("A Watch in the Night", LJ 9/15/96) updates Nabokov's "Lolita" with inspiration from theoreticians as far-flung as Kant and Lewis Carroll. Oliver Gold, an enervated intellectual, moves into a London home. He is the pet hermit of the household, which comprises a name-dropping widow, her lesbian daughter, the daughter's lover, the daughter's own very young daughter, and an Austrian au pair. Oliver's attraction to the child plays out across several years until she approaches her tenth year and he resolves to find a decent way to let both her and himself out of the affair. He decides upon marriage as a suitable escape, choosing a brittle and tiny American as a suitable fiance, but he is panicked by the disappearance of his indiscreet journal. Two surprise denouements are packed into this small but powerful volume, in which the only misstep is the very British vocabulary of the American characters. Provocative and timely, interlarded with both eternal philosophical quests and contemporary courtroom issues, this promises to have popular appeal as well as to uphold the author's considerable literary reputation.--Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., Albany, CA
Michiko Katukani
Mr. Wilson has modulated his usual light, comic voice. . .producing a novel that's both chilling. . .and biting. . . .[Dream Children marks a darkening and deepening of Mr. Wilson's ambition; it's a far cry for his early, purely comic novels. . . -- The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
At a time when child sex abuse elicits myriad accusations, mea culpas, and endless shelves of prefab fiction, the prolific Wilson ("Jesus, A Life", 1992; "The Vicar of Sorrows", 1994; etc., etc.) offers a respectable, genuine, intellectual portrait of a pedophile that also makes for a gripper indeed. When philosopher and ex-university don Oliver Gold, 43, moves into an attic room in the London house of widowed Janet Gold, it's thought by all that his reason for going from teaching to the attic is to concentrate on his long-expected magnum opus. His real reason for moving in, though, is no such thing, but instead it's the appeal of being near his deepest love-object, Janet's three-year-old granddaughter Bobs (from Roberta). When the main action opens, seven years have passed, and not only does nary a soul in the house think of Oliver as a pervert, but each is in love with him, not only Bobs, who finds him the greatest pal she's ever had, but also the 60ish Janet herself, for whom Oliver provides the literary and artsy cachet that had almost disappeared with the death of her editor-husband; Janet's divorced daughter (and mother of Bobs) Michal; and Michal's beautiful lover (and ex-student of Oliver's) Catharine Cuffe. When news comes "like a bolt from the blue" that Oliver is to marry an American and leave the attic forever, things shift into high gear as everybody tries to figure out why. Matter, often grimly, even wonderfully, comic, such is Wilson's sleight-of-hand, will go from bad to worse, then far worse still, as each of the women (and Bobs, too) tries to serve and save her own interests, as does also the hyperintellectual, deeply serious, but child- and sex-tormented Oliver, whoin spite of all (and 'all' includes plenty) remains believably human, thanks to the estimably gifted Wilson. A 'topic' novel that surpasses its genre and goes to the dreadful, but this time authentic, heart of the matter.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393319934
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/17/2000
  • Pages: 226
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

A. N. Wilson is the author of the acclaimed biographies Tolstoy, C. S. Lewis, Jesus, and Paul; God's Funeral, and several celebrated novels. He lives in London.

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