I read, last night and today, Dreamhouse by Alison Habens. It was published in 1995. I started it a few years ago, but events occurred where I had to stop reading, and I consequently forgot about the book. I started the novel again, last night, from the beginning and finished it this afternoon.
I really like the first quarter of the book. I feel that it really exemplifies the sort of character (Celia) that so many girls (women?) in the world act like. Its easy at first to just mock them; these seemingly witless girls who fancy only some obnoxious Victorian era marriage. Are their dreams so small and simplistic? But yet, they expend so much time and effort on these dreams, its difficult to call them lazy. In fact, in this book, Celia seems to have honed in on her target since she was under 10 years old and she has planned every minute detail of the courtship, engagement, and wedding. All of this, of course, under the watchful eye of her overbearing mother. In fact, the frustrations and labor that Celia undertakes to ensure her dream comes true is remarkable.
The book describes Celia’s engagement party to Kenneth. Or, more accurately, it describes Celia’s preparations and feelings towards said engagement party. The exciting thing is that the evening that this party is set for, Celia’s absurd housemates are also having parties. Cat and Phoebe are having parties of their own. At first, these housemates (plus another named Dodge) seem downright abominably wretched. By the end of the book, I am not sure that they are any nicer, but they, at least, are more developed characters. (Also, I feel the house must be the size of a mansion…..)
Throughout the book, Celia plays the role of a pseudo-Alice in Wonderland. Frankly, I would have enjoyed the story more, I think, if when Celia falls in the kitchen the first time, that she is knocked unconscious. Then, perhaps, she could “dream/imagine” all of her exploits instead of wandering through them. But that seems “hack” too.
I feel the last quarter of the book was really way too forced and miserable. Habens has some good wordsmithing and storytelling going on, but the last quarter of the book just becomes forced, scattered, and none too interesting. The overall story is a bit ribald at times, with many innuendos and puns, but overall, it does its “job” of presenting views on feminism, freedom, and individualism. These are explored as Celia roams from party to party within the house as well as the interactions between Celia and her family. I’m not real big on these topics, to be honest, but I enjoy a good story regardless of the point of view of the author.
Overall, I feel the first half of the book is interesting and creative. The second half of the book seems to chase its own tail and the story gets bogged down with the message. There is no doubt that Habens is a good writer, but this isn’t going to be a classic anytime soon.