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The Dreamers

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Corgi, London, 1964
first published Victor Gollancz, 1958
(price: 3/6; 168 pages)

The blurb on the back:

The Deadly Dream
Jane Fettes was the first to have the dream. She told it to Myra Calloway. Myra told her husband, and that night Mr Calloway had the dream. It sent him reeling to the local doctor, who was himself the next shattered victim of the dream.
What was this monstrous dream?
What was this hideous nightmare, so terrifying, so fearful, that it could kill?

'A brilliant piece of imaginative writing, absorbing and at times terrifying. The suspense is so absolute that one is afraid to lay the book down, hoping there may be a lessening of the tension. But none comes until the final devastating and illuminating pages are reached. An astonishing book.' - Manchester Evening News
'Fascinating adventure into fear - but not for bedtime reading unless you have good nerves.' -
Evening News
'A paroxysm of sheer fright. For keeping you awake and giving you the shakes, it's far better than a gallon of straight caffeine' -
San Francisco Examiner
'The best I have read in years ... a rare sense of terror ... a terrific exercise in suspense writing.' -
San Francisco Chronicle

Bizarre stuff. I don't know what to make of this one. It starts with a handful of people in a village in the Thames Valley sharing the same dream, a vivid nightmare that takes them to the very threshold of unbearable fear. For fifty pages the story builds and you're intrigued, but you kind of know where you are. Then - with no warning or explanation - we discover that actually this whole thing is about the relationship of white Britain and black Africa.


Oh yes. An African doctor enters the story, finds himself in conflict with the racist protagonist and we're off in a direction you never dreamed you'd be headed in.

It's a structure and a combination that cannot possibly work. And indeed it doesn't. However it's a bold move, and Manvell's heart is clearly in the right place. Remembering this was Britain in the 1950s, on the very eve of the Notting Hill riots, you can only praise the anti-racist message as being timely and sound, even as your bafflement builds to bewildering proportions.

The great Ray Bradbury once wrote a screenplay adapted from this novel, but it was never filmed. Shame - would have made a decent little movie.