“In my experience, dreams are unreliable, and the lovers whom people see in their dreams, well… Put it this way, I’m not exactly convinced. Far from it.” – Thoughts on Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith
Sigh. I hate it when a book disappoints me, especially when I’ve convinced myself early on that I will love, oh I will love it so, so much. Alexander McCall Smith’s Dream Angus is my fourth Canongate Myth, and even before I’ve started reading the series, just when I was learning about them and reading the synopsis of each title, I was convinced that this one – this book about dreams and love and all its different manifestations – would be the stand-out, that one orange among the series of apples*.
Darn it, Alexander McCall Smith. Darn it.
Something was amiss. No, some things were amiss. I felt it the moment I held the book: it was light, too light, like it was lacking weight and substance and something else that mattered. I told myself, no, it’s purposely light, because it’s a book about Angus, the Celtic mythology’s giver of dreams and a figure of youth and love, and it is only right that this re-telling should seem just as unburdened. And so I read, and I read some more, and no matter how much I tried it didn’t feel right at all.
I tried to love you, Dream Angus, and when that didn’t work I tried to at least like you. And maybe I did, a little bit, but once disappointed, you can never go back.
You were, for lack of a better term, just meh.
But there were redeeming qualities, the stuff that made me keep on reading. The five different stories (were they related, written without a sense of time?), despite leaving me wanting, were good. Angus was in each one of them, in various forms – an unwelcomed visitor, a shrink, and something else; my favorite was the uncle who threatened his nephew with nightmares (and maybe I liked it because it was different). There were such beautiful phrases and lines: “he drowned in the sky” and “but the gesture never came,” “And he wanted to disbelieve what he had just heard because so few words could not end a world.” Dream Angus was written – I hope you can forgive me if it sounds too schmaltzy- so dreamily.
And maybe that is why. It felt written in haste, in a haze, at times lucid and at times not. To put simply: “Sometimes the reality is not quite so appealing as the vision, distinctly so, but let’s not be pessimistic.”
PS. “Love and its disappointments were the bread and butter of people like him.” Yes, there was love, plenty of it, and it all ended in disappointment. I’m so sad. So very, very sad. Sigh.
*I like apples, but I love me an orange. My analogy sucks. I’m sorry.