Charles De Lint explores the boundaries between what is real and what is not on multiple levels in this book. It had many twists and I enjoyed it immensely. Memory and Dream is part of the Newford series, but like the other books in this series it can stand on its own and it is not necessary for it to be read in order. If you have not read any de Lint before; this is a good book to start with. De Lint explores urban fantasy meshing a modern-day alternate 1980’s America with the fey and Native American spiritualism. Memory and Dream delves into this but not as deeply as some of his other books.
The book is centered around Isabelle. She is a talented artist with an ability to create engaging pieces, but she also has a gift to bring to life what she paints. This was taught to her by her mentor, the acclaimed reclusive artist, Rushkin. Rushkin insists she must protect the world by destroying these creatures, but Isabelle has difficulty believing this. She wonders if she and Rushkin are crazy, and if she truly did create these creatures, why do they need to be destroyed?
Isabelle’s relationship to Rushkin isn’t healthy. He is a mad artist with mood swings, anger issues, and mental instability. Aside from questioning the reality of bringing life into the world by painting, Isabelle isn’t sure she can trust Rushkin, or John – her boyfriend she doesn’t know if she created or not.
De Lint often explores the effect of abuse with his characters. Isabelle is the product of a neglectful and verbally abusive childhood. The level of abuse is not as extreme as in some of his other books, but it does have a big impact on how Isabelle relates and deals with her life. While issues of abuse, suicide, and drug abuse are part of this book they are dealt with realistically and respectfully. There is minimal profanity and descriptions of sex, drug abuse, etc. are not explicit or graphic
Kate Reading’s narration is very good. She has done all of the de Lint books I have read and enjoy the consistency. She does a fabulous job of distinguishing between her characters.