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Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams Hardcover – September 4, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Apparently set in medieval Japan, Valente's second novel, an allegorical fantasy whose dreamlike threads reach into Shinto and Western myth, mathematics and physics, is more accessible than her poetically surreal debut, The Labyrinth (2004), which centered on the Greek myth of the Minotaur. Now an old woman, Ayako as a child escaped the destruction of her village and found solitary refuge on a nearby mountain. Her only contact with humanity comes, years later, when the village is reinhabited. Believing her to be a ghost, the villagers seek to appease her with annual offerings of rice and tea. The minimal story line follows Ayako as she slowly advances up five levels of a pagoda and discovers a book of dreams. Nothing is certain—Ayako may be a goddess or a dream or a leonine monster—but, by the end, much wisdom has been learned. Those who admire literary craft and rich language will most appreciate this sublime tale. (June)
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From Booklist

Yume No Hon, or, in English, The Book of Dreams, is the story of a woman, Ayako, who lives alone on a mountain. Her only visitors are village boys, who bring gifts of tea and think she is a spirit. She doesn't often try to talk to them, for spirits aren't supposed to ask questions. She wanders through dreams and myths, receiving lessons from the mountain and the river, climbing through successive levels of a pagoda as the seasons change, aging through the seasons of many years, and learning from all she observes. Yume No Hon is also about the burning of Troy, the riddles of the Sphinx, the creation of the world, and other dream stories drawn from myths. Ayako is the center of a legend of woman, and her dream people are goddesses of many traditions. Yume No Hon is an internal landscape painted with thoroughly poetic turns of phrase and a slim volume that packs a great deal of punch in its fleetingly short chapters. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Wildside Press (September 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809510871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809510870
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Catherynne M. Valente, Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams (Prime, 2005)

Sometimes I feel as if I should have a "five-and-a-half star" ranking. I've given a lot of books five stars in the past couple of years-- more five-star reviews than I'd given out in the decade before, almost. (Blame my getting a library card again, and thus not being limited to my own books.) But there are some books that transcend even the five-star rating, that are not only outstanding works of art, but that are so beautifully written that they deserve a place on the short shelf of sacred literature. The benchmark, for me, of this trait has long been Wendy Walker's The Secret Service, the book I consider the most beautifully written and constructed book I've ever read. Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams is the first book I've come across since reading The Secret Service that rises to the same level.

Throw away your conceptions of what a novel is before cracking the cover on this one. All the stuff you got taught in English class, chuck it out the window. Yume No Hon is character study in its purest form. The problem is, you've got an autobiography from the most unreliable of narrators (cf. Lauren Slater's Excellent Lying, to which this bears a passing resemblance more than once, were our main character epileptic and living in America); every time you think you've got an answer as to Ayako's real nature, you're likely to turn around and find yourself with many more questions. It's the mimetics of creative nonfiction, but turned around and attached to fiction; is Ayako dying and delirious, or possessed by powerful spirits? Is she ghost, hermit, memory, God?
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Comment 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book at the library after hearing about the author. I was curious and read it on a rather hectic trip.

My initial reaction was mixed...but as the story mellowed in my brain and invaded my dreams, I knew I had stumbled upon something more than a cunningly written piece of poetic fiction.

Catherynne M. Valente cleverly weaves several elements of myth from around the world into the five tiered pagoda in the book of dreams. I could not begin to give the twisting turning plot justice by trying to describe it here. It would be like trying to capture the chattering and singing of a brook as it winds through the woods.

Suffice to say, you would be well served to dive into this world of spirits and myths where the silk moths weave slick, black, gloss....
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I've been aching to write a review for this book since I finished it a couple of weeks ago. But where does one find the words for such an inspiring and intoxicating work?

Read this book for a love of language. Read this book to be immersed in the voice of solitude. Read this book to lose yourself for much too short a time.

To be honest, I read this wonderful book in a few days and promptly reread it immediately after, which is not something I often do. Valente paints with such vibrant language that I could taste the weak tea, the river and the dust. I plan on reading this treasure again, very soon, and will continue to do so whenever I need such a friend.
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This book can be rated on many levels.

As a pure literary piece, as prose and imagery, and as simply what it is.
As pure literature, some may be disappointed. Some might believe that there is no "point" to this story. There is no "reason" for it, no technical introduction, climax or any of the myriad of literary structures treasured by conventional wisdom.

As prose and imagery, this is a stunningly and sometimes overwrought piece of literature. Situations and parable leap from this page and overwhelm your senses. As a pure love of writing that gallops on a page rather than runs, or twist and turns your mind, I have never met its match at this point.

Which leads to the 3rd way, to take this book as it is. It will not fit any of the defined categories you may think of offhand, but it is certainly something that will capture you for a time in its pure love of what it writes of.
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