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Cat and The Dreamer

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As a teenager, Julia survived a suicide pact, while her best friend, Rachel, died. Julia’s only escape from her guilt, and her mother’s over-protection, is her imagination. When Adam arrives in the office, Julia’s world takes a startling turn as she realises reality can be much more fun than fantasy. Finally she has someone who can help her make the most of her life. But can she allow herself to be truly happy?


First published February 12, 2012

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About the author

Annalisa Crawford

11 books90 followers
Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, and canine writing partner, Artoo. Her two sons have flown the nest, but still like a mention.

Crawford writes dark contemporary, character-driven fiction with a hint of the paranormal. As well as novels, she has had short stories published at Fairlight Books and Fictive Dreams.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for A Mac.
813 reviews139 followers
June 1, 2023
TW: Bullying, Suicide, Depression

Julia grew up bullied in school – first for being too big, then too small, and often for just being. She had a friend, a new girl named Rachel who arrived in the middle of the school year, but only three weeks into their friendship tragedy struck. Fifteen years later, Julia still lives at home and constantly thinks about Rachel. She also dwells on her bullies (all of whom she calls Cat), both past and present, who continue to define her life. So when a new friend unexpectedly arrives, Julia begins to wonder if maybe, just maybe, her daydreams have a chance at being a reality.

This novella is an excellently written character study. You won’t find much plot here, but what you will find is a wonderfully written examination of a woman trying to become herself again after a traumatic event shook her life as a teenager. I found the narrator of the work to be quite relatable, which is part of why this read worked so well for me. Sometimes I would have to reread a sentence because it felt like the author had pulled it from my head when I was younger. This is quite a melancholic read, and the author did an excellent job at creating and maintaining that feeling throughout the book.

The author included Julia’s daydreams/imaginings interspersed throughout the story and they were always italicized - this didn't interrupt the pacing, but it did add much to the characterization and depth of the protagonist. Julia becoming lost in her daydreams (sometimes good ones, sometimes bad) excellently highlighted just how trapped she felt without truly realizing it. This work also covered some dark themes and events, and the daydreams not only helped to balance the book itself, but showed realistic examples of how many people respond to unhealed trauma.

I know this work of literary fiction won’t be for everyone, but I think it’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve read all year. If you enjoy character-driven literary fiction and somewhat surreal reads, then you might just love this. Many thanks to BookSirens and Annalisa Crawford for allowing me to read this work. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Rosh, I owe you big time for bringing this one to my attention!
Profile Image for Rosh.
1,572 reviews1,831 followers
April 17, 2023
In a Nutshell: Don’t be fooled by that dreamy cover. This gets quite dark at times. Excellent for *select* literary fiction lovers. It’s a slow mood read, but proceeds beautifully.

Story Synopsis:
When Julia was fifteen, she entered into a suicide pact with her schoolmate Rachel. Rachel died, Julia didn’t.
Now, fifteen years later, Julia is still struggling with her past and the guilt of being the one who survived. Moreover, she is constantly in the world of her imagination, which is dominated by a composite character called Cat who always puts Julia down.
When a new work colleague named Adam enters Julia’s life, she sees a chance to break free of past shackles. But will ‘Cat’ let her go that easily?
The story is written in the first person perspective of Julia.

I had picked up this author’s short story collection – The Clock in My Mother's House and Other Stories – earlier this year and was blown away by her creative thinking. So when I saw that one of her old novels had been edited and readied for a fresh release in April 2023, I grabbed the opportunity to read it. So glad I did so!

Here’s what you need to know about this novella:
🌺 The imaginativeness of the plot mixes perfectly with the groundedness of its themes. Bullying, suicidal ideation and dealing with a friend’s death are all intense topics, but the author handles them with fair aplomb. I appreciate how she neither condones nor condemns the actions of the characters, but allows them to speak for themselves.

🌺 When I reached page thirty, I realised that I was totally lost in the ‘who is who’ guessing game because of Julia’s habit of referring to all her bullies as ‘Cat’. Only when I reread the blurb did I understand that Cat was multiple characters rolled into one. I simply started again from the beginning and the second time around, things were smoother. So just go with the flow at the start, keeping in mind that every negative character in Julia’s life is ‘Cat.’

🌺 Unlike what you would expect, the titular ‘Cat’ isn’t the main protagonist but the main antagonist. As a composite character, Cat encompasses all of Julia’s past and present persecutors: the school bullies, a particularly nasty work colleague, and even Rachel, which is also why her behaviour seems so farfetched. Cat’s role in the story is complicated but essential. While I would have preferred to have more clarity about Cat at the beginning, I can also see why the author chose to write her as a unified singular.

🌺 ‘The Dreamer’ in the title is thus Julia. And she demonstrates the reason behind this nomenclature in every scene. Julia has a tendency of slipping into the world of her mind right in between a scene or a conversation. Your experience of the book will depend highly on how comfortable you feel travelling between the real and the surreal fluidly along with her.

🌺 The writing becomes a tad confusing also because Julia’s thoughts swerve almost casually between reality and imagination, leaving us scampering to keep track with her. This is exacerbated by Julia’s habit of ‘speaking’ to Cat using the second person ‘you’. The formatting, indicating the dreams with italicised letters, helps tremendously. But you still need to stay focussed. This is not a book to be speed-read, or even heard on audio, if ever the option comes up in the future. It needs (and deserves) your highest concentration.

🌺 Julia’s character grows on you. She begins as someone who seems to have no spine, until you realise why she acts the way she does. Her attempt to break free of the past can be termed as a ‘coming-of-age’, though she is thirty, because in her mind, she is still fifteen, and still haunted by the demons of her teen years. It is a pleasure to see her shattering her shell and discover her courage as the pages move ahead.

🌺 Though Julia’s parents have only minor appearances, I liked their portrayal as well. As a parent, I could understand how they might have felt about their child making a suicide pact, and why they never wanted to let her away from their eyes. They did not realise that what they were doing out of love and protectiveness was stifling their daughter’s present and killing her chance at a happier future. Truly appreciate how realistically they were sketched.

🌺 Adam is a bit too good to be true. I wish he too had been as realistic as the ladies in the story. Nevertheless, if you want a swoony loveable hero, Adam is your man. Hey, someone has to be the ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy story, right? 😉

🌺 The ending makes the journey worth it, but would it satisfy all readers? I am not sure. It doesn’t tie all loose ends. However, at times, a HFN is even better than a HEA as it strikes more realistic bells. This is one such case.

All in all, I know this is not a novella that will click with everyone. Only readers with a preference for character-oriented literary fiction, and who don’t mind surrealism and realism juxtaposed without boundaries can try this indie work. But such readers will relish the poignant experience and the hopeful ending. Now it is up to you to decide if you are such a reader or not. As far as I am concerned, I am glad I picked it up. This story won’t leave me easily.

4.25 stars.

My thanks to author Annalisa Crawford for providing me with a complimentary copy of “Cat & The Dreamer”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

Connect with me through:
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Profile Image for Lesley.
159 reviews52 followers
July 25, 2023
This novella. Prepare to be blown away.
Two 15 year old girls attempt suicide. Rachel dies while Julia lives. They suffered constant bullying at school and had had enough. The rest the story is of Julia’s guilt of not dying.

It’s a dark read and hits you straight through to your heart.
Such fantastic writing.
Profile Image for Rekha Seshadri.
31 reviews14 followers
May 12, 2012
I give it a 4.5 rating.

The book is basically a first person narration. A poignant, raw and very hard hitting portrayal of a woman - a survivor of a suicide pact, trapped in a teenager's mind, who struggles her way through the art of living.

I loved the wordplay, realistic conversations and the process of Julia's slow awakening to reality and freedom.
The book deals with the effects of bullying on young minds, covertly which works for it.

An excellent choice for reading on a weekend...and of course, having a hardy heart goes without saying.

The Review on my Blog
May 15, 2023
Cat and the Dreamer by Annalisa Crawford is a gripping novella that was originally written in 2012. I believe this may have been a story originally told ahead of it's time, and the re-release now thirteen years later may resonate much more strongly.

Julia is a 30 year-old woman still living with her parents and consumed by her past. She deals with her trauma through daydreams and the backstory is told over the course of the novella. At 15, Julia and Rachel attempt suicide. Rachel succeeds, where Julia survives. Julia may have lived, but she was shattered nonetheless.

The story line confused me at times, but is so human in that I could relate completely with the stream of consciousness which goes in and out of reality. That is what made this four stars for me actually. There is a message of hope in despair and that Julia could potentially overcome the 15-year old mind she seems stuck in.

This was a short but impactful punch that has lingered with me. It is worth a quick read and a reminder of the impact bullying has, whether it manifests physically or mentally, and that is doesn't just happen with teenagers.
Profile Image for D.L. Finn.
Author 18 books287 followers
May 5, 2023
Julia survived a suicide pact she’d made with her only friend and the new kid in school, Rachel. Fifteen years later, she is still trying to survive. Julia lives with her parents and has a job but again no friends. She meets a kind young man, Adam, who changes all of that. Her life changes slowly in a more positive direction, but her inner world is just under the surface. At first, I found the story hard to wrap my mind around. Although I understood the dream world parts, it was her alternative that took me a minute to realize what was going on. Julia combined all the people who bullied her. I quickly settled into the story and her realities. Then I found it hard to put down, especially when she flashed back to her suicide attempt and how she met Rachel. “Cat and The Dreamer” deals with some powerful issues, that include suicide, bullying, and mental health. Everything comes together by the end, and I came up with a theory of what really happened, but I won’t share that here. A very unusual and powerful heart-wrenching read where I just couldn’t help but root for Julia. I can easily recommend this novella.

Profile Image for J. Martain.
Author 3 books205 followers
April 5, 2023
Due to the subject matter, this story will not be for everyone, but it is a moving, thought-provoking piece of literary fiction. As alluded to by the title, the dreamlike quality of the storytelling is at times perplexing—yet that’s the point. With the 1st POV, it’s easy to get caught up in the narrator’s confusion and emotions, and in so doing, lose sight of what might be the “real” reality she’s experiencing.

I feel the author handled the nuances of bullying, depression, and suicidal ideation with sensitivity, yet wasn’t afraid to “go there” and allow her narrator to shuffle through reasoning that might seem superficial to some readers. All-in-all, this is a deeply, tragically, believable story.

Thank you to Annalisa Crawford for sharing an ARC and allowing me to offer my candid thoughts.
Profile Image for Kelly Parker.
951 reviews15 followers
May 16, 2023
This story, about a woman stuck in arrested development after surviving a tragic ordeal as a teen, was really short but still long enough.
The main character’s struggle to move on past the bad judgment of her youth was palpable and moving.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Seckman.
Author 16 books89 followers
March 8, 2012
I really liked this book. It had a fresh perspective and an understanding of teen psychology.
Profile Image for Martha.
Author 8 books89 followers
April 3, 2023
Ethereal moments drift through this ghostly novella about a girl, then a woman, trying hard to escape a life-changing, almost life-ending, moment in her youth.

Quiet, chilling, this slender tale is absolutely thrilling!

The book deals with a tough premise: Julia, now 30, has not been able to overcome the guilt of surviving a teen suicide pact her friend, Rachel, didn’t. Now Julia is dogged by Cat, a compilation of negative feelings and people in Julia’s life that threatens to crush her. It’s no wonder Julia takes solace in her daydreams.

Thankfully Julia meets Adam and hope rises she’ll be able to escape her self-imposed shackles. I found myself rooting for her!

Annalisa Crawford has such a gift for twining the supernatural and surreal into reality so you don’t know which is which, a method that brings out the haunting nature of human nature. Eerie, yet wildly beautiful.
511 reviews10 followers
May 6, 2023
Depressing yet there's heartfelt messages in this novella. I liked how Julia's narration grew on me with skillful pacing and efficient characterization. Not a single wasted page to tell the story it wanted to tell. Like how self-absorbed Julia can be is very apparent from the first chapter. Be aware that this is not a joyful read. Then again, perhaps that's clear already from the promotional blurb and the cover.

Cat and The Dreamer is a wonderful introduction to Crawford's work. The story beats are solid, and the ephemeral qualities got my rapt attention when I could read it. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a short bluesy read.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Profile Image for SueK.
677 reviews
May 22, 2023
A novella about the survivor of a teen suicide pact, that is both dreamy and dark. A fascinating look at the inner world of the woman who survived, and what her life has become 15 years later. There are her fantasies, her scapegoat, and her parents, who treat the 30 year old as though she's still as fragile as glass (and aren't necessarily happy to be in that role).

Though this book may not be for everyone (TW: suicide, bullying) the writing is exquisite.

Thanks to BookSirens for the review copy.
Profile Image for Anne Goodwin.
Author 10 books57 followers
April 5, 2023
Fifteen years and half a lifetime ago Julia stopped living when she survived a suicide pact and her friend died. Now her fantasies are more real than her humdrum life in a dead-end job and stuck at home with her parents. Will the new man at work rekindle her enthusiasm? Or is it already too late? Beautiful prose takes us to the heart of this sensitive topic with an ending that made me question everything I'd read before.
Profile Image for C. McKenzie.
Author 22 books421 followers
May 2, 2018
Such a tragedy. Two girls. Both only fifteen and one of them dead? That's what happens and only because of a chance meeting at a vulnerable time.

I can't describe what happens in this story without giving away the brilliance of the storytelling here. All I can say is you will find it tantalizing and surprising.
47 reviews
May 2, 2023
An extraordinary, haunting re-released novella.

Cat & The Dreamer, narrated by 30 year old Julia with Cat as the antagonist. A poignant, and moving story of Julia who survived a suicide pact as a 15 year old but hasn’t really let herself live.

Totally immersive, hard going but well worth it.

Thanks to Book Sirens and the author, Annalisa Crawford, for the ARC.

Profile Image for Stacey Bryan.
Author 1 book9 followers
May 22, 2023
Chilling and heartfelt. The three-dimensional struggle to find real meaning. Especially since suicides have risen so sharply over the past decade, this story resonates. For those who have given up. But especially for the ones who continue to fight, because life is painful, but precious. A very touching novel; a good YA read also!
Profile Image for Patsy Collins.
Author 48 books42 followers
July 1, 2018
Unusual and compelling story about how a lack of self esteem can leave people open to manipulation – and how traumatic incidents from the past can impact on our lives, and those of people who care about us, forever.
Profile Image for Tina Fulcher.
31 reviews1 follower
March 24, 2023
Another great novella by Annalisa. This story follows life after a partly failed suicide pact. The characters grip you right from the start. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Terri McClean .
167 reviews2 followers
May 18, 2023
Trigger Warning; Deals with Suicide.

A hard to put down but at same time a hard to read book dealing with the topic of Suicide.

Well written story on a difficult and emotional subject.
Profile Image for Danielle Robertson.
Author 1 book19 followers
November 17, 2012
Originally posted on my blog, The Reader's Commute:

Julia is a very sad and shy narrator, reflecting often on her friend's suicide. Her narration is poignant and heartbreaking, with lots of beautiful imagery on every page. There was some initial confusion as italicized passages were introduced into the story, but I soon learned that the use of italics signified a slip into Julia's imagination and daydreams. Some of these scenes are horrific, detailed accounts of Julia's daydreams of death (the bus-kidnapping scene on page 5 is eerie). These are some of the most well-written passages in the novella.

I found at least one moment on inconsistency in the use of italics, on page 15 of my PDF copy. A scene between Julia and Adam, the charming man who starts working at her office, begins in italics. It is clearly dream-like and sweet (big fireplace, soaked clothing, flirtatious banter). There is an abrupt shift away from italicized font in the beginning of a new paragraph, although it is clearly the same scene. This confused me, because I am certain at this point in the narrative that the scene did not take place.

Julia makes frequent use of "you" in her narration, speaking to someone who I could infer to be Cat, her overbearing, (pardon the pun) catty co-worker. Although Cat, throughout the storyline, throws herself into the middle of situations and attempts to make Julia's life very inconvenient, I wondered why there was so much importance being placed on her. Julia, in other italicized scenes, speaks to Rachel. I found those addresses to be much more intriguing, as the guilt of Rachel's death adds a weight to the scene that the scenes with Cat do not have. While I felt some understanding at the end (the last few pages brought tears to my eyes), I was curious about this throughout the course of the story.

This novella is beautifully-written and moving. It caused me to meditate on my own situations and examine details more closely. Having the reader's knowledge of Julia's secret suffering made the happiest scenes (particularly the domestic scenes between Julia and Adam) particularly agonizing. At 73 pages, Cat and The Dreamer is a quick but fulfilling read. It lasted me one morning commute and a lunch break (I couldn't put it down - couldn't wait until 5 PM to read the rest). I sank into Julia's dreams so completely that I nearly missed my train stop! Plus, I think any story that can wake me up enough on an 8 AM train to feel like I'm going to cry is a plus in my book.
Profile Image for Katie.
75 reviews
October 17, 2013
I have to say right away that this book was not what I expected. The writing style is very different in that we are inside the protagonist's head and she jumps from reality to dream world often. This happens constantly, in the midst of conversations, at work, on the bus, etc. It is interesting to see daydreams intersect with reality as so many of us understand where our day dreams can take us. We dream about the life we could have, wish we had. Julia does this often, and she also fights with demons within herself.

When the book began the placement of time was a bit confusing, I wasn't sure what present times was and how much time has past, how old the character was, etc, and it took a few pages to place the moment. You really won't understand this story until the end, you won't truly understand what is happening and where it's going and how it got there. But by the middle/end of the book you understand more because now you've been inside Julia's head the whole time and your mind goes where hers goes. This grew on me and I eventually liked the writing style a lot, it was very unique. I enjoyed the flow and that I kept wanting to read more and understand more and see more. I think the author did this well, by pulling us in with desperation to understand. We feel for Julia and her struggles, and the strange circumstances that led us/her here. We hate the characters we are supposed to hate.

The book ended much quicker than I thought it was going to, but I can understand why it ended where it did. To me, this read as a literary fiction short story. Though by the end, I am curious how much Julia really changed, deep down. I think maybe that's the point - which you'll understand as you watch her transition throughout the book.

This is a quick read, and definitely interesting, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to just get outside themselves for a bit and be in someone else's head (and problems).
Profile Image for Christina M Condy.
490 reviews14 followers
January 30, 2013
In this story we have Julia who survived an attempted suicide with her first and only friend. Rachel died but Julia woke up on the day of Julia’s funeral. But her life truly ended at that same time. We see a 29 year old woman basically stuck in her own head and still living the life of a 15 year old. She lives in a fantasy land that is until Adam steps into her life. I will NOT go into any secrets or tell you what happens but I will say that the Author has created a character in Julia that we not only feel sorry for, but can relate to on multiple levels.

This is a story about a child who was bullied and we think it is to the point of wanting to die, and the repercussions that child faced after attempting suicide and the guilt at her friends death, so far into her adult life. It is a wonderful read and a very quick one. A short Novella, which I personally think could have been made into a much longer work and went more into Adam and Julia.

There were a few things which confused me in the book, but all in all it was a well written and enjoyable tale. The Author uses italics to designate when Julia is dreaming, however at a few points where I am sure she is dreaming the italics are not used. But the dream’s that Julia have are not only disturbing in the beginning but also show how closed off she is to everyone around her.

I recommend this book if you want a good heart breaking story.

Details/Disclaimer: Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
July 1, 2014
This is a book which I struggle to rate. Is it a 3 or is a 4.

Julia survives an attempted suicide when she was a teenager - unfortunately her only friend dies.

On the day of Rachels funeral Julia is still in hospital and doesn't get to go. This is something she can't live down and can't let go of.

To get away from the guilt that hangs over her and her mother who is just too over protective, she likes to escape to her own little dream world.

That is until Adam comes along, he just arrives in the the office and her world is turned around. Slowly she begins to realise that the real world can be a better place to live than this little fantasy world she's in.

I don't really want to go on and ruin this book for you.

It is most certainly a book i will be reading again as it is one of them that i think you could read over and over and find something different each time.

I hope to read many more by Annalisa.
17 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2014
This is a very interesting read. It's well crafted and original. The technique of drifting in, out, and between of the narrator's reality and her hallucinations and delusions is well done. It is occasionally confusing as to which you are in, but that's the desired effect.

Crawford walks the line between presenting her protagonist's obvious deficiencies and keeping her sympathetic. It is never clear whether Julia's oppression by her coworkers is real or imagined. By the end, you don't know whether you can trust anything about the narrative.

This would be a terrible book for readers that do not like ambiguity. If you want everything wrapped up and clear, stay away. For those who like to impose their own imagination upon stories, Cat and the Dreamer is rich in the possibilities it opens up. Enjoy it.
Profile Image for Medeia Sharif.
Author 21 books447 followers
February 28, 2013
Fourteen years ago, when she was fifteen, Julia attempted to commit suicide with her friend, Rachel. Rachel passed away, but she lived on. All these years she’s been trapped by her past: the suicide pact, bullying she experienced in high school, and overprotective parents. In the present, she has a mother who continues to be overprotective, a malicious coworker throwing barbs at her, and a handsome coworker she daydreams about. It’s not easy getting over all that’s happened, but maybe she can be independent and strong. Maybe she can have a relationship and go after what she wants. Julia is an interesting character. Our pasts do shape us, and Julia carried a lot of baggage. All her pain, insecurities, and hopes are laid bare for the reader. I enjoyed this emotionally charged novella.
Profile Image for Shirley Golden.
Author 9 books6 followers
July 25, 2013
This is a story about bullying and the tragic consequences that can arise and continue to cause harm to an individual. I really enjoyed the way this novel was structured, unfolding past events gradually through flashback and weaving Julia's fantasies with her reality. I thought the second person address for her antagonist, Cat, worked well. At times Cat's behaviour seemed beyond belief, and Julia's burgeoning relationship with Adam a little too idealistic at the start; however, as this was told from Julia's viewpoint, I started to question how real the 'real' parts were and how reliable Julia was as a narrator. Beautifully written and poignant. Recommended.
Profile Image for Kyra.
Author 36 books286 followers
August 2, 2012
I finished Cat and the Dreamer yesterday and I'm still thinking about it today - which is always a good sign! I loved the way true events and imagined events were interspersed throughout the story. In spite of the unusual situation of being the survivor of a suicide pact, Julia is very easy to relate to. This is the kind of book you could read over and over, and always spot something new to think about. A definite must read!
Profile Image for M. Pax.
Author 41 books296 followers
July 23, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. The inner turmoil and journey taken by the main character hooked me. It was an interesting peek into a life and the events which affected it.

I hope Ms. Crawford keeps publishing. I'd read whatever she writes.
Profile Image for Julie Flanders.
Author 10 books166 followers
October 20, 2012
I read this novella in one sitting and loved it. It's a very powerful and emotional story, and it's hard to imagine any reader not being touched by the character of Julia. A moving tale that went right to my heart. I look forward to reading more of Crawford's work.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews

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