Book Review: The Anatomy of Dreams

The Anatomy of Dreams
By: Chloe Benjamin
Published By: Atria Books
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Provided By Publisher
Genre/Audience: Adult/YA Fiction

Gabe and Sylvie are young research assistants in the sleep lab of Dr. Adrian Keller, a medical researcher who believes in the power of lucid dreaming as a type of psychotherapy. With patients numbering into the hundreds, their research has yet to be proven successful and the three, quite insular researchers, are forced to keep their work from everyone else, including academic colleagues, family, and friends. With an intriguing title and an eye catching cover, The Anatomy of Dreams takes a unique, sometimes overly scientific approach to fictionalizing the analysis of dreams and their power in our lives, but ultimately, this is a story of a young woman's discovery of self.

Dreams being used as psychotherapy is an interesting concept and the slow descent into the almost cult-like work was an equally intriguing reason to pick up this book. I will say the love story aspect is highlighted in the synopsis, but I found it tertiary to the research and Sylvie's personal plot lines.

Sylvie's story is told in alternating flashbacks -- one set when Sylvie and Gabe are at boarding school and first meet Keller, and the other several years later during the height of their work with the good doctor. While the chapter format isn't confusing, I found myself overwhelmed with the amount of back story and the amount of scientific explanation needed to lay out Keller's theories and explain his work. It just didn't grab my attention, a slow build up, which, in the end, I found wasn't needed in order to enjoy the book.

Gabe and Keller were interesting characters, though I never really connected with either of them (which I think was purposeful with Keller). They seemed to be always hovering on the outskirts of the book, but never really developed with enough substance to make an impact on me as a reader. It took more than half the book for Sylvie to grab my attention, and when the self-discovery/the coming-of-age aspect finally kicked into gear about 60% of the way through the book, I started getting into the story as I go to know her.

This is a case where the end of the book saved it for me, though I saw the big reveal coming for most of the book, I liked the change in Sylvie and enjoyed watching her come into her own, stand up for herself, and resolve some of her issues without Gabe or Keller's help.

Summary via Goodreads

"Human beings are more productive than ever before, but they're also unhappier. They feel oppressed by the limits of their lives: the boredom, the repetition, the fatigue. What if you could use your sleep to do more—to receive all of the traditional regenerative benefits while problem-solving, healing, even experiencing alternate worlds?

Wouldn't you be capable of extraordinary things?"

So asks Dr. Adrian Keller, a charismatic medical researcher who has staked his career on the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming. Keller is headmaster of a boarding school in Northern California where Sylvie Patterson, a student, falls in love with a spirited classmate named Gabe. Over the next six years, Gabe and Sylvie become increasingly involved in Keller's work, following him from the redwood forests of Eureka, CA to the coast of New England.

But when Keller receives a commission from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sylvie and Gabe stumble into a tangled, dangerous relationship with their intriguing neighbors, and Sylvie begins to doubt the ethics of Keller's research. As she navigates the hazy, permeable boundaries between what is real and what isn't, who can be trusted and who cannot, Sylvie also faces surprising developments in herself: an unexpected infatuation, growing paranoia and a new sense of rebellion.

Both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of the subconscious mind, THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS explores the murky landscape of the human psyche and the fine line that defines our moral boundaries.


  1. Haven't read about this book before your review, but it does seem interesting, even though it's not really a genre I've ever read.

    Thanks for the review!


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