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Dream Children [Hardcover]

A Wilson
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 28 1998
Provocative fiction about a forbidden love: a Lolita for our 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. The cold and beautiful Catharine Cuffe, Oliver's former student and a formidable philosopher herself, offers him a platonic marriage of convenience; Michal, Cuffe's lover, is a bitter, divorced mother who would do almost anything to keep Oliver in the house, as would her mother, Margot, a faded literary hostess who is only a few years Oliver's senior; Britte, the Austrian Amazon housekeeper, harbors a yearning for Oliver that verges on madness; but only Bobs, Michal's twelve-year-old daughter who has been Oliver's constant companion, 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.

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Life has not always been harmonious at 12, Wagner Rise. But for the past seven years, philosopher extraordinaire Oliver Gold has caused an entire extended family to stop quarreling among themselves and turned their huge North London home into a cozy, if odd, ménage. How has this seemingly asexual individual accomplished this feat? By using the best tactic on tap--making them all fall in love with him, from the aging matriarch to a pair of lesbian lovers to a 10-year-old girl named Bobs. Alas, things go entirely out of whack when Oliver reveals--or has young Bobs announce--his engagement, and to a rather mousy American named Camilla of all people!

Dream Children would seem on a par with Iris Murdoch's searching and satirical dissections of the socially and intellectually gifted. But A.N. Wilson opens his novel with a more contemporary (and more American) spectacle: a recovered-memory trial in which a middle-aged woman claims she was raped at 6. "It was one of those cases which divided the nation. Those of the conservative disposition felt that the plaintiff was hysterical, probably deluded, certainly, which amounted to something pretty similar, female." And pedophilia, it turns out, is at the heart of Wilson's 17th fiction. Oliver Gold's purity of thought and word are in no way matched by his deeds and desires.

Owing to his own early encounters, our antihero has decided he can only be happy with a child, "a little dream lover." And until Bobs he has lived inside his head, with a little help from Lewis Carroll et al. But 12, Wagner Rise turns out to be the ideal love nest: "What began to unfold was the most delicious danger, the most heart-rending miracle. Now, looking back, he did not choose to put dates on the affair or ask himself when it had all begun. It was the central fact of his life, the knowledge that he and Bobs were made for each other." Oliver may be able to rationalize himself through--and others into--almost anything, but his fellow homesteaders are equally (though not so antisocially) self-deluded. The author has the right, light touch with his emotionally injured and injuring man of intellect, and the ironies reverberate throughout his disturbingly delightful book (one reason Dream Children is unlikely to be an Oprah pick). Oliver's fiancée, for instance, tells her visiting, and appalled, mother, "If that man didn't want a kid of his own, I don't know who does!" Some readers may consider A.N. Wilson's approach far too clever, and cold, for his hot-button subject, but he doesn't need to hammer his moral point home. His intricate narrative and chilling conclusion do so with artistic aplomb. --Kerry Fried

From Publishers 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).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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It was Bobs who broke the news to the three of them, to her mother, her grandmother, and to Catharine Cuffe: to the quorum, one might say. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Pity there is not a zero stars rate June 18 2011
This is an awful book. I am an avid reader and I often read controversial books but this one is as close to pornography form the far side of the spectrum. As a bout the literary style, the best I can say is that it is written in correct English
I personally returned the book and asked for a refund
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1.0 out of 5 stars Vile Book Oct. 29 2003
I am not sure what is wrong with the other people who read this book who seem to think it is exceptionally good writing. At the end of the day the story is of a grown man who destroys a child's innocence, leads a former lesbian wife to suicide and adopts two additional children to molest later in life. It is sickening. For all the grand words used to describe the book, it is nothing but a new twist on pedophelia. By explaining it through the eyes of man consumed by it, the author tries to perhaps makes him more human and makes the subject more palatable. Rubbish. I threw the book in the trash in the Orlando airport and poured my drink on top of it. That was the only time I had any delight related to this book! It does not even deserve one star
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1.0 out of 5 stars Relevant Information Aug. 4 2002
By A Customer
I was about to read this novel, when I noticed a piece in the New York Times Week in Review reporting that the author, A.N. Wilson, had "'reluctantly' concluded that Israel no longer had a right to exist." The article discusses Wilson's support of a fellow writer who had referred to Israeli soldiers as "the Zionist SS" and who described American Jews who have settled on the West Bank as Nazis who should be shot. "'Many in this country and throughout the world would echo [these] views on the tragic events in the Middle East,'" the Times quoted Wilson as saying. I felt that A.N. Wilson's political opinions were important information for readers to be aware of. I am glad Mr. Wilson was so open about his views; I immediately discarded his book unread on learning of them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A STORY THAT PUTS US IN A HORRIFYING PLACE... Jan. 16 2002
...into the mind and life of a pedophile. Told from the point of view of Oliver Gold, a seemingly mild-mannered, brilliant writer and philosopher, A. N. Wilson's book does just that -- and it is truly a scary place to visit.
Gold lives in a house of women -- all of whom consider themselves to be free-thinkers. It is the consequence of this self-image that they allow themselves to be taken in emotionally by their male lodger, to the extent that they are unable -- or unwilling -- to see the ongoing relationship he shares with Bobs, a precocious pre-teen girl, the daughter of one of the women in the house. A dark, well-written story with disturbing moral implications, Wilson's novel is one that will -- hopefully -- make most readers uncomfortable to the point that they will do some serious thinking and investigating on their own into the subject of child abuse in our society.
I don't think for a moment that Wilson has made his protagonist seem gentle and harmless, intelligent and ingratiating, in order to make him seem less evil, or to propose in any way whatsoever that this sort of behavior is acceptable -- he's done it in order for us to realize how insidiously a perpetrator such as Gold can 'hide in plain sight'. There are truly monsters such as this who live among us, preying on children. As disturbing as this novel is, maybe it will cause all of us to open our eyes a little wider, to be more watchful and vigilant in protecting those who look to us for care and love.
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