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Sweet Dreams

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  152 ratings  ·  26 reviews
The description of heaven in Revelation reveals a cubical city with 21,000 furlong sides; the whole place being made of pure gold. Howard Baker, 20th century man, well-educated and a liberal with genuine social concerns, is soon to find out just how real heaven is!
Paperback, 144 pages
Published August 3rd 1993 by Penguin UK (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  152 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, favorites
An utter delight.

Even though it was written in the 1970s, it still feels completely fresh & topical today. It's a lovely, optimistic satire of man & covers many of the Big Ideas. I know when Life of Pi was so very popular, various reviews said it would affirm/renew your faith in God (a claim that left me mystified), but Sweet Dreams *is* actually one of those entertaining, sweet (& a teeny bit bittersweet), humorous stories that will affirm/renew your faith in God (a fun read even if you're not
030219 ftom ??? 2000s?: later addition: now where is my copy, i really need it at the moment..?

first review: this is the ultimate comfort-food for the very-down mind: light, seriously fun, beautiful description of just what Heaven is- for anyone, ever, though this in particular is a satirical but affectionate rendering of Heaven for a middle class briton circa 1972…
Sep 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: featuredbook
My favorite book. The only one I've read five times. It's simply bloody marvelous: light, funny, elegant, wise, brief yet full of perfectly intricate little details.

Frayn achieves such a delicate balance between innocence and cynicism that he leaves you optimistic, light-hearted, but not naïve. The tone of this book is comic but not boisterous; satirical but not biting; affectionate but not cloying. It’s one of the most perfectly realized books I’ve ever read–and probably the only book I’ll rea
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Aug 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Howard Baker is sitting at the wheel of his car, waiting for the traffic lights to change. His mind begins to wander from one trivial subject to another, until eventually he catches the eye of a beautiful woman standing across the road. The distracted Baker drives forward when the light is still at red and the next thing he knows he’s on a very different road, a ten lane expressway on a warm midsummer evening, and he’s heading towards the capital city of Heaven. Certainly the most interesting th ...more
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Frayn is a remarkably prolific playwright, novelist and newspaper columnist (from which half a dozen collections have been published). As such, just because I've scarcely heard of him doesn't mean he should be described solely in comparison to writers I am more familiar with. Nonetheless, for me this 1973 novel evokes Donald Barthelme and Italo Calvino (including the fact that it starts and ends with the same few paragraphs).
It's a cleverly surrealistic critique of the mores of 60s and
200802: comfort food... 4 reads? see review in aaafavorfiction...
Charles Remington
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A work of marvellous imagination, one man’s vision of eternity. It follows the adventures of Howard Baker and starts as he is sitting in his car waiting for traffic lights to change. He is distracted by a woman he thinks he knows walking on the other side of the junction but the lights change and he drives away, unsure if the woman was an acquaintance or not. Howard drives on to a town which is vaguely familiar and meets people who are also vaguely familiar. It is not clear why he has travelled ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fable
This is the fourth book by Michael Frayn that I've read. Of the four, 'The Tin Men' definitely remains my favourite. 'Sweet Dreams' is a satirical account of heaven from the perspective of a bourgeois man. Although it worked very well as such, my lack of identification with the main character (and especially his treatment of women) reduced the book's appeal. The overall message seemed to be that true heaven for such a man is being taken seriously by everyone. It is clear, though, that his behavi ...more
Aug 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Gave up after Howard met the woman. Such a whinger..
Chris Amies
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From what I remember of this book I thought it was too clever for its own good and not really that funny. Let's have some lions and tigers and bears in the streets? prefiguring Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" really - and that novel's line about 'we don't have dangerous wild beasts in our cities' led to the retort on this reader's part, "no, but they didn't build the cities", and thereby to Slartibartfast's line in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy about "the mice were very upset ... [the ...more
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surreal and clever and kooky, and generally not my sort of thing (I am stodgy in that I prefer traditional novels to ones that try to stretch the boundries of the form). A dash of Italo Calvino here, and a pinch of Richard Brautigan there, this was a mind blower that I enjoyed very much.
Joan Rabe
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing. Affectionate satire of human behavior and at the same time brings up universal issues of morality; religion and government.
May 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Sweet Dreams tells the story of Howard Baker and how he explores heaven in Frayn’s metaphorical and intriguing world.
I was given this book as a present for my birthday and I can safely say that I was not disappointed by any means. This novel was beautifully designed, with a creative and funny outlook throughout. What intrigued me the most, was Harold Baker’s character development, as he goes from being a cheerful and comedic character, to having immense responsibility which morphs his character
Derek Collett
May 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
I just couldn't get on with this at all which is surprising as I have enjoyed (sometimes very much so) all of the Michael Frayn novels I have previously read. I only saw Sweet Dreams through to the end as it is so short and I knew that Anthony Burgess very much admired it! This is a liberal, Cambridge-engineered view of heaven but I didn't find it either interesting or intriguing and, crucially, I also didn't find it funny at all. Perhaps it would have made more sense had I read it in the mid-19 ...more
Peter Jakobsen
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Highly original and amusing satire of a bespoke heaven for boyish, middle management men of early middle age and their moral crises as the right hands of god. You can see the influence cast by this book on, for example, Douglas Adams. The chaps, all from Cambridge naturally, are no longer scholars but creators, and they have an easy, breezy, Ian Fleming style way with women and imagine themselves to be radicals, even the lukewarm Head Man, in that smug, cosy, implacable way, a la J P Sartre. The ...more
Ashley Lambert-Maberly
A sweet book, actually (especially for a satire!), not mean-spirited in the slightest, funny in the sense that it will cause many a smile, rather than guffaws (judging from television comedies and my reaction to them, I guffaw when shocked, and I smiled when recognizing the absurdity of the familiar).
Peter Aronson
An odd little satire that I may have missed some of by not being British, but amusing nonetheless. It does an interesting job of trying to show an afterlife where everyone could be happy, but of course, most of us lack the requisite talent for happiness.
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to D-day by: Top 100 Modern fantasy
mildly amusing satire
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cleanskin
Had the 4 CD version read by Martin Jarvis
I like the idea but it seems slow moving as at disk 3. See how it goes.
Finished. Still like the concept but feel much more could have been done with it.
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Intelligent and magical.
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british, comedy
God, the funny, wry, self-effacing Englishman who works in mysterious ways lest he be seen to be flaunting his powers...
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Designing the Matterhorn. Cambridge. God.
Tom Quinn
A bland and decidely average depiction of a grand idea, and perhaps in that way a great metaphor for humankind.

3 stars out of 5.
Dec 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Lovely novel about heaven, basically.
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Jun 01, 2013
Buoyant Armiger
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Sep 27, 2018
Jordan Kaltz
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Sep 27, 2017
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Oct 09, 2010
Nick Benson
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Mar 23, 2018
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Michael Frayn is an English playwright and novelist. He is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction. His works often rais ...more

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“I can't help feeling," says Howard, sticking his head forward ruefully, "now I know who you are, that I've been a bit outspoken in some of my remarks about the system."

"Not at all!" says Freddie.

"Not a bit!" says Caroline.

"But I must in all honesty say," says Howard very quickly, jutting his chin out and smilingly blinking his eyes, "that I still think there are a number of things in the universe which really need seriously looking into."

"Oh, the whole thing!" says Freddie with feeling.

"Ghastly mess," says Caroline.

"Absolute disaster area," says Freddie.

"Frightful," says Caroline.

"So far as one can understand it," says Freddie.

"Freddie feels frightfully strongly about it, you see," says Caroline.

Howard looks from one to the other in astonishment.

"Good heavens!" he says. "I should never have guessed...."

"Oh, Freddie's a terrific radical," says Caroline.

"Really?" says Howard.

"A terrible firebrand, really," says Caroline.

Freddie knots himself up.

"A bit firebrandish," he admits.

"A bit of a Maoist, to tell you the truth," says Caroline.

She looks sideways at Howard to see how he is taking this. So does Freddie.

"A Maoist?" says Howard, astonished.

"Permanent revolution," says Caroline.

"That style of thing," agrees Freddie.

"What he feels, you see," says Caroline, "is that people ought to struggle pretty well all the time against the limitations of the world and their own nature. Not stop."

Howard gazes at Freddie, deeply impressed.

"Don't worry," says Freddie. "I don't think my views have much effect.”
“I beg your pardon?" says Howard.

Freddie clears his throat, and forces himself to look Howard in the eye.

"I said, I'm God."

He folds his arms very tightly, and looks away over Howard's shoulder. He is plainly embarrassed. So is Howard. He is embarrassed to have embarrassed Freddie.

"I'm terribly sorry," says Howard.

"Can't be helped," says Freddie. "Just one of those things."

"I mean, I'm sorry not to have known."

"Not at all. I'm sorry I had to spring it on you like that."

There is an awkward silence. Freddie fiddles with his biscuit, breaking it into small pieces, and dropping crumbs which catch in the hairy surface of his trousers.

"Well," says Howard. "Congratulations."

"Oh," says Freddie. "Thanks."
The more Howard thinks about it, the less he knows where to look or what to do with his hands. He tries putting them behind his back and looking at the floor, smiling reflectively. Freddie is having difficulties, too. He puts his dry biscuit down, and with his left hand seizes his right elbow. With his right hand he takes hold of his chin. Then he, too, examines the floor.

"On second thoughts," he says, "I don't know about congratulations. Not like being elected to a fellowship, or whatever. Wasn't open to other candidates, you see.”
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