Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Life Is But a Dream by Brian James

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Life Is But a Dream
Brian James
Release date: March 27th, 2012
by Feiwel & Friends

Goodreads / Purchase

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it’s the world that’s crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she’ll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.

*A copy was provided by Raincoast Books for review purposes*
Did you know that Schizophrenia typically appears between the ages of 16 and 25? How old are you? Scary, huh? I’ve always been fascinated, if a bit terrified, by this illness. I got a chance to learn a lot about it in one of my psychology classes at University and it’s not a disorder that many really understand. Life Is But a Dream takes us in the mind of Sabrina – in a mental facility because of this incurable illness.

There is so much sadness, underneath it all. We go into Sabrina’s mind and see her delusions, her perceptions, and even when she thinks she’s completely happy, you can feel her helplessness; it’s brilliantly written. You get a grip on how this illness takes away your sense of the world. However, I could never completely connect with Sabrina. I felt like she held the reader at arm’s length in a way that made it hard to me to really be able to sympathize for her. No doubt is it distressing, but I felt this in a more general sense of the illness, than towards Sabrina herself.

Alec – in the mental facility as well – quickly falls for Sabrina, and she him. The romantic element is a sweet way to give a little light to the otherwise gloominess of the story. I was happy that she found someone to be herself with, although I didn’t particularly like how he was feeding her conspiracies that negatively affected her mental state. Especially that he is otherwise healthy, thus should have realized this wasn’t helping her.

The book consists of Sabrina trying to understand, to accept, who she is. It’s a fairly short novel of a little over 200 pages, even so I did find the story was moving too slowly for my taste. I felt myself longing for something deeper to unravel. Nonetheless, there is a definite beauty in the slow, painful way that it’s told. Flashbacks throughout the novel also helps us understand how her illness started, unfolding to the events that led her to the facility.

Life Is But a Dream opens our eyes to a mental disability that is often misunderstood. Brian’s portrayal of schizophrenia is impressive; he makes us see the despair, as well as the beauty in such a sensitive subject. For those who enjoy books dealing with mental disorders, this is one that will make you see the world in a completely new way.

 “Is the world crazy–or is she?” – quote on cover
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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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31 Responses to “Review: Life Is But a Dream by Brian James”

  1. Amy

    I don’t know that this is a book that I would read, but it does sound good. I like that the book is able to show beauty in the situation though. Great review!!

  2. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    This sounds very interesting. I’ve always been a bit fascinated/terrified of the subject of mental illness. I understand what you’re saying about wishing something deeper happened. I guess the story was simply about the two characters? I’m glad you enjoyed this. Nice review!

  3. Sam

    I had NO idea Schizophrenia affected that agree range. It’s a scary thought. Brilliant review, Giselle. This sounds like a really moving book and I will definitely have to check it out. 🙂

  4. Danny

    Hm.. sounds like an intense read and topic. Also, since you describe it as very slow with only 200 pages I guess I’m going to pass on this one. I like the cover though, it’s gripping! Wonderful review:)

  5. Tellulah Darling

    I remember talking with someone who suffered from extreme manic depression – to the point of institutionalization and prescription of lithium. He was a very creative person and he said that while the lithium definitely helped with the manic depression, he could feel a huge difference in terms of it killing his creativity. A challenging reality for sure.

  6. Giselle

    @Tellulah Darling: Wow yeah it’s definitely a challenging disease and even in this book I can see how creative it could make someone become. Also easily understandable that a lot of them are artists.

    @Sam: YES it’s very scary! I’m passed the danger age! *phew*

  7. ~Sara @ Just Another Story

    I have a number of friends who suffer from schizophrenia. It is not an easy illness to live with. I am glad there is a book that is addressing this issues. Thanks for the review. I might check this one out.

  8. Maja

    Hmmm, this sounds EXACTLY like my kind of book, Giselle. I don’t mind slow pacing at all, as long as I enjoy the writing, and judging by your review, writing is really very good.
    So I’m very excited about this one.

    Thanks for the lovely review, m’darling. 🙂

  9. ❤ Vivian

    I guess this wasn’t a sweet and comforting read? 🙁 I am just falling into the age range for the disease… oh dear..

    Really nice review, though! I can really relate to the feeling of when a character just holds you off at a farther distance, and true, true, true! that is sometimes SO frustrating that it ends up being even a slightly painful read, haha!

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

  10. Rebecca (Kindle Fever)

    Gosh, I can’t wait to read this one. I love psychology and have found many of these illnesses to be fascinating as well as frightening, but this is definitely one of those that are more of both! I am so curious to see how this is dealt with in the book since we’re in her head, but it sounds like he’s done it extremely well! I’m picking this up this weekend and cannot wait. Fantastic review!!

  11. A Canadian Girl

    I just started reading this one and was finding it hard to get into, which you seem to agree with. I like books dealing with mental issues so I’ll probably finish this one but thanks for letting me know what to expect, Giselle.

  12. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Aw, poor girl! I’ve seen this one around and wondered about it. I’m not so great with issue books so this probably isn’t for me but some of my students might like it. Great review!

  13. Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue

    Some of my thoughts on this one are similar to yours – I liked the flashbacks that kind of filled in the gaps, and I really liked Alec and Sabrina, but like you, I was a bit frustrated with him and how he was sort of egging her on – and obviously misunderstood how deeply disturbed Sabrina was.

    I don’t know that this one was everything I expected it to be, but it was a good read. And I agree with you – it WAS sad. I think I’d definitely be interested in seeing what else the author has to offer.

  14. Candace

    Schizophrenia runs in my family. I’m 30 now, so I’m safe but my mom said she was always paranoid and watching for signs in us. Ive watched several people suffer with it and its scary. I like reading books about it but yet at the same time they stress me out. Ive heard this one is dark too. I may read it one day, we’ll see.

  15. Lexie

    Despite the slow pace, this definitely sounds like a book I’d love to pick up. I’ve always been fascinated in other mental illnesses, and schizophrenia is one of the most interesting and terrifying of all. I’ve seen scarcely any novels from the point of view of one with a mental disorder, and I think it’s a premise that, if done right, can be truly fascinating. This definitely sounds like my type of read. Very, very lovely review.

  16. A. Knight

    Oh, noes, a kind of secretly cooky love interest maybe. I mean, feeding unhelpful conspiracies doesn’t sound very sane… or at least, nice. I don’t know. But I like the idea of getting to learn more about the illness. Whether I’ll connect with the main characters, I don’t know. And I’m a little nervous about the slow-moving plot.

    Asher

  17. Vicky

    I’m the same as you – I’ve always been fascinated by mental illnesses, but not just schizophrenia. And this one is on my TBR pile too! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it and now I’m just desperate to get started! Great review, G! x

  18. Rebecca

    I have bipolar disorder and have a best friend who is a highly functioning paranoid schizophrenic. I think I’m going to read this.