Reflection – Hadriana in All My Dreams

I gave this book four stars out of five, but I don’t really feel like I could write a proper review. I don’t think I could even write a coherent summary. There are probably spoilers, but you can’t really spoil this book. It isn’t plot that you’re reading it for.

This is the book that I kept picking up and putting back at the library. The back used words that amounted to “zombie romance” and that was what I signed on for. Technically, it’s there. But nothing is that straightforward. When I looked this up to figure out the genre, I came up with Magical Realism. However, while reading it, I kept thinking about weird fiction. It wasn’t quite that, but it was similar.

The language is beautiful, occasionally incomprehensible in a poetic way, but less often than one might think. it was also funny! For all that there is a lot of frank sexual descriptions and discussion, it never struck me as a sexy book. The characters and prose seem more interested in sex as something that actually ever happens than in talking about it in order to titillate a reader.

Aside from the many asides, which one might expect in magical realism, the basic plot is that Hadriana Siloé died on her wedding day, which the narrator, Patrick I-Forgot-his-Surname, never got over it. There’s a happy ending, and more gets explained than I had expected.

As cool as anything else is the history of the book. The author René Depestre wrote it in 1988 set in Jacmel and based on decades old memories of living there. It was translated into several languages, but never in English until this edition. The translator and the person who wrote the foreword have also piqued my interest. I need to look them up.

There is a section that is sort of a many-times abandoned essay about zombies wherein Patrick kept trying to grapple with his feelings about Hadriana’s death and the suspicious disappearance of her body. This was one of my favourite bits. He had I think ten different proposals in it, all of them hefty ideas like explaining how Haitian zombies actually work, or the history of slavery and the psychology of humans.

Like most weird things I have read, I don’t know who I’d recommend this to. Probably Hubby, but I want him to read everything strange that I’m even aware of. Still trying to get him to read House of Stairs.

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