The Art of Effective Dreaming

by Gillian Polack

(Pub: Satalyte Publishing, 2015)

Bored? Trapped in the mindless routine of the daily grind? We’ve all dreamed of escaping at some point whether it’s via a change of job, a holiday, a movie or a good book…

Gillian Polack’s novel The Art of Effective Dreaming is about Fay, a public servant who is depressed with her “drearily, drably and impossibly dull” life. Her form of escape is to create a dream world and lose herself within it.

The characters of this imagined realm become her friends and this world holds Fay’s interest far more than her workaday life.  The fantasy world offers what her real world lacks – happiness in the form of true love (I’ve lines from The Princess Bride ringing in my head as I type that!) and friendship, but comes with the added and unwelcome bonus of an evil sorcerer and murder.

Sounds exciting for a fictional realm, yet Fay’s world turns out to be just a real as her boring and “impossibly dull” world and she finds herself in a battle to save not only her imaginary creation, but herself.

I found a great deal about Fay that I could relate to and the premise of this story had me hooked, as I’m almost always immersed in worlds created by my imagination and I love getting lost in them – mine don’t, fortunately, become as real as Fay’s world.

Polack writes witty and delightful prose and from the first page I found myself smiling and chuckling while reading The Art of Effective Dreaming. Her characterisation of Fay is excellent – Fay is honest, intelligent, her emotions yo-yo and at times she is confused and rambling as she attempts to sort out the dilemmas before her. In short, Fay is very complicated, at times endearing and at others frustrating and really well constructed.

While I thoroughly enjoyed The Art of Effective Dreaming, this is a book that the reader will have to work at a little. The narrative jumps between Fay’s real world and her imagined one and, while this doesn’t sound difficult or unusual, time works differently in both realms. The result of this is that large intervals of time may have elapsed between her visits and the reader is left to figure out what has been happening.

This makes the story occasionally disjointed and I found this hindered my enjoyment of the novel. After a few chapters I’d become accustomed to it and learned to wait as things were slowly revealed. I would have liked a smoother progression between the two worlds and for Fay to have spent more time in each, developing the story in more depth. However, I think that this slightly scattered approach actually reflects Fay’s state of mind and as she is transformed, so too is the story.

Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed The Art of Effective Dreaming – it was quirky and very well written. I also loved the fact that Polack doesn’t have Fay fall into the true love trough and become mindlessly in love. Don’t misunderstand me – you will enjoy the romance aspects of this novel – our handsome prince is not perfect and nor is Fay – yet by the end of the book she knows what she wants.

This is very much a story of a woman lost in the drudgery that can become our everyday workday lives. Fay’s imaginary creation is a life raft and through it she remembers who she was and decides who she wants to be.

We all need such an escape from time to time.

Four Stars.