Marguerite's Reviews > Dreams of Sleep

Dreams of Sleep by Josephine Humphreys
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Mar 11, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: feminism, read-over-and-over, contemporary-fiction
Read in March, 2009

I thought this was extraordinary when I read it in 1985. Recently, I pulled it from my add-to-GoodReads shelf. (Six other books in this category sit on my desk, plus a fairly long list of others. They mean too much to me to toss off in a quick review.) I was facing some fairly insipid fiction and got drawn into rereading this, instead of new books from the library. And, Dreams of Sleep holds up beautifully. I probably appreciate it more now that I've been married almost 30 years. It's the portrait of a marriage on auto-pilot, and seven years into my own marriage I might have had a clue, but not much of one. Now I have perspective, and it makes all the difference. Josephine Humphreys writes beautifully, as the many underlined passages and Post-It flags attest:
"This marriage is like a place where the language is not her native tongue. She has managed to pick up the words and idioms and intonations gradually, so that now they sound almost right coming out of her mouth, but she knows they are his."
"You have to feel sorry for anyone in whom love grows so big it edges our the feelings of normal life, including hunger."
"It dawned on him that the loneliness of marriage, the thing Alice had so feared, starts out of the love itself, which can never deliver on its promises."
"But we are not joined. We only touch, Alice thinks."
"The difference between love and no love is slight, anyway. People are fooled every day about whether they have it or not."
"The web of love and anger is so dense between mother and child, it is never clear what thread is laid down first: the child's cry or the mother's sympathetic caress; the mother's anger or the child's misbehavior and remorse."
"It isn't that nothing is left. It is that what remains is such an old sad ghost of the thing that used to be, and he can't bear lying down with the vestiges."
There are only one or two other Southern women writers who can hold a candle to Josephine Humphreys. I can't wait to reread them!

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