DREAMS OF SPEAKING by Gail Jones, Book Review

In Dreams of Speaking Gail Jones offers a vision of Japan as you have never imagined it.

Dreams of Speaking ReviewDreams of Speaking Synopsis:

A brilliant and moving novel about displacement and belonging by the award-winning author of Sixty Lights and Five Bells.

She wished to study the unremarked beauty of modern things, of telephones, aeroplanes, computer screens and electric lights, of television, cars and underground transportation. There had to be in the world of mechanical efficiency some mystery of transaction, the summoning of remote meanings, an extra dimension – supernatural, sure. There had to be a lost sublimity, of something once strange, now familiar, tame. ‘‘We must talk, Alice Black, about this world of modern things. This buzzing world.”

Alice is entranced by the aesthetics of technology and, in every aeroplane flight, every Xerox machine, every neon sign, sees the poetry of modernity. Mr Sakamoto, a survivor of the atomic bomb, is an expert on Alexander Graham Bell. Like Alice, he is culturally and geographically displaced. The pair forge an unlikely friendship as Mr Sakamoto regales Alice with stories of twentieth-century invention. His own knowledge begins to inform her writing, and these two solitary beings become a mutual support for each other a long way from home.

This novel from prize-winning author Gail Jones is distinguished in its honesty and intelligence. From the boundlessness of space walking to the frustrating constrictions of one person’s daily existence, Dreams of Speaking paints with grace and skill the experience of needing to belong despite wanting to be alone.

(Vintage Australia)

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In Dreams of Speaking Gail Jones casts a spell of introspection, unbridled honesty and intelligence.

Alice Black and Mr Sakamoto are so different yet inextricably bound together in their focus on the observation of life more so than the living of it.

She watched her book-filled room gather yellowish light. The spines of the books were a kind of reproach – a life lived too inwardly, too much alone, too given over to perplexity and complication.

Through Alice’s ostensibly atypical view on the world the reader is taken on a reflective journey of love and loss, life and death, joy and displacement that all can identify with.

I found myself mesmerised not only by the story of Alice and Mr Sakamoto, but by Gail Jones’ mastery of language. It is not simply that the prose is a treasure trove for word lovers, it is the gloriously descriptive and refreshing, thought-provoking observations that I was continually impressed by. Jones sets a scene and a mood in a way that kept me wanting more.

It was such an easy meeting. Friends are an intersection, a route back to the world……  He too seemed responsive to something in Alice’s manner – not just her project, but the earnestness of her isolation, the dedication to an intellectual cause, the pleasure in supposing the usual arcane, the familiar compelling. If there is a magnetic aspect to sensibility it is evident in friendships that arise from these merest conversations and shreds of sentences, talks that align particles of self in a sudden, energised correspondence.

This novel is filled with Sakamoto’s charming tales of the lives and motivations of the inventors of key advancements in communication technology such as radio, telephone and television. The unique and ever-changing bonds between people are considered with great sensitivity – the power of communication in all its many forms being the central theme.

I enjoyed Dreams of Speaking immensely. Although this is the first novel I have read from author Gail Jones I have a feeling she is going to become one of favourites.

UPDATE: I have since also enjoyed her novel Five Bells.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5

Get your copy of Dreams of Speaking from:

Book Depository | Amazon | Kobobooks | B&N | Booktopia(Aus)

Genre: Literature, Drama, Mystery

About the Author, Gail Jones

Gail Jones lives in Sydney and teaches at the University of Western Sydney. She is the author of two short-story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams of Speaking, Sorry, Five Bells and A Guide to Berlin. Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, her prizes include the WA Premier’s Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, the Steele Rudd Award, the Age Book of the Year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Fiction and the ASAL Gold Medal. She has also been shortlisted for international awards, including the IMPAC and the Prix Femina. Her fiction has been translated into nine languages.

Other reviews of Dreams of Speaking

Goodreads, The Age Diamond Sharp, Independent, Devoted Eclectic