Book Review: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

August 28, 2020


In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado

Serpent’s Tail, 2020

LGBTQ+ | Life-writing  

Content warning: Abuse


This memoir blew me away.

In the Dream House explores Machado’s experience of queer domestic abuse through different lenses – such as places, literary devices, genres – written in ‘fragments’ or vignette-like short chapters. A multitude of ideas are explored through these lenses, expanding it beyond the survivor memoir and making it an immensely interesting read.

Machado’s narration is suspenseful. She recreates her past frame of mind. What I mean here is that she doesn’t reflect back on the abuse from a place of hindsight, bitterness or trauma but relates the events as she felt them at the time. We get a sense of her abuser’s charisma at the beginning, and we walk in Machado’s shoes as things start to seem off and progressively get worse. This slow progression builds suspense in the narration but, more importantly, provides insight into the complexity and insidious nature of abuse.

Machado situates her memoiristic writing in political contexts and, occasionally, theory. She discusses the impact of queer representations on her experience of abuse including the impact of fearing of “bad PR” for the queer community by exposing abuse and the lack of representations of queer abuse in literature and beyond.

What I’m about to say seems wrong considering the difficult subject matter, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was incredibly absorbed in Machado’s narration and found her to be a highly identifiable and lovable narrator. The memoir is thoughtful, creative and artfully constructed, making it an exciting piece of literature.

If you feel you are able to approach the subject matter, please approach through Machado’s phenomenal memoir, it's an incredible read and worthy of a place on your bookshelves.


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