Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index



to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Dream Room

Marcel Möring

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Dream Room

Title: The Dream Room
Author: Marcel Möring
Genre: Novella
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 113 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: The Dream Room - US
The Dream Room - UK
The Dream Room - Canada
La Chambre d'amis - France
Modellfliegen - Deutschland
  • Dutch title: Modelvliegen
  • Translated by Stacey Knecht
  • Note that in his review in The Observer Zulfikar Abbany reports that: "Möring's translator, Stacey Knecht, asked not to be credited. According to publishers Flamingo, the two were in disagreement over the final section, so Möring finished the job himself."

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

A- : charming, wistful novella

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ D 4/9/2001 Wolfgang Schneider
The Guardian . 29/6/2002 Justine Jordan
The Guardian . 15//11/2003 Alfred Hickling
Neue Zürcher Zeitung B+ 13/9/2002 Dorothea Dieckmann
The Observer . 28/7/2002 Zulfikar Abbany
The Times C+ 10/8/2002 .
TLS C+ 12/7/2002 Jon Barnes
Die Welt B 6/10/2000 Stefan Beuse

  Review Consensus:

  Some impressed by parts, but most didn't particularly like it

  From the Reviews:
  • "Kein Zweifel, die Geschichte läßt viele Deutungen zu; es geht um Schwellenerlebnisse auf dem schwierigen Weg ins adoleszente Leben. An der Schwelle lauert hier jedoch das Geschwollene. Mancher symbolische Köder wird ausgelegt. Aber wir verzichten darauf anzubeißen." - Wolfgang Schneider, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "One of the many remarkable achievements of this precise yet mysterious novel is its brevity: into its 120-odd pages Marcel Möring folds a war memoir, a family psychodrama and a meditation on time and memory. With a winning lightness of touch, he pinpoints that cusp of adolescence when a child begins to wake up to what he is, feeling "the first nudge in the back that later becomes the rhythm of life itself, grown-up life", and to apprehend the multi-layered pasts that have made his parents what they are." - Justine Jordan, The Guardian

  • "Effortlessly written, charmingly drawn and as light as the thermals on which those early airmen drifted." - Alfred Hickling, The Guardian

  • "Möring deutet an, statt auszumalen, und versteht es zugleich, die impressionistischen Ausschnitte zur Ganzheit zu verbinden. (...) Um allerdings den Rahmen seiner Geschichte von den scheiternden Flugversuchen des Lebens zu schliessen, lässt sich Möring ein bisschen zu viel einfallen." - Dorothea Dieckmann, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Whether Möring's closing remarks have anything to do with Europe's recent swing to the Right is unlikely. Instead, they seem long developed and smack of Thatcher's mid-Eighties family values, spoiling an otherwise endearing, if fractious, tale." - Zulfikar Abbany, The Observer

  • "Aside from the weather, much is going on in The Dream Room (a room in David's grandparents' house where his father stayed when his mother first brought him home), but none of it makes a lasting impression. (...) Perhaps revisiting a confusing childhood is never a good idea. Moring makes the journey with his literary reputation intact. But only just." - The Times

  • "The writing, in Stacey Knecht's translation from the Dutch, is largely effective, but when Moring attempts a lyrical tone the results are sometimes bathetic. (...) What is crucially missing in the novel is any real ambition. The plot is carefully unspooled but with little sense of momentum -- resembling a series of unrelated incidents more than a cogent narrative. When something does happen, it feels slight and inconsequential." - Jon Barnes, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Immer wieder geht es ums Fliegen im konkreten wie im übertragenen Sinne, es geht vor allem ums Basteln, um das Zusammensetzen von Modellen, Erinnerungen, dem Geschmack der Kindheit. (...) Marcel Möring hat ein hübsches kleines Buch geschrieben, das betont leicht und pastellig daherkommt. Doch gerade hinter dem Gestus des Unprätenziösen lauert oft das Pathos, gerade das betont Unangestrengte wirkt an einigen Stellen kunstgewerblich" - Stefan Beuse, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Marcel Möring's The Dream Room is narrated by David, not quite a teen when the book begins. An only child, he lives with his parents in rooms above a Doll Hospital, and he begins his story by telling how his father came to build model airplanes.
       Flight figures strongly in this novella -- as does the putting together of piece: David's father (named Philip, but now called Boris) fled the Netherlands in his youth by air when the Nazis invaded, and he went on to become a pilot -- first in the war, then dust-cropping and the like. A crash lands him a wife -- the nurse who tends to him -- but also scares him off from continuing to pilot planes. Later, however, he returns to more grounded flights of fancy with the model airplanes.
       David's father is a creative man, but his talents don't fit well in the contemporary workplace:

Eventually he became a kind of inventor who would work for a while for one firm, devise a machine that would render him superfluous, and then go looking for the next firm where he could bring about his own dismissal.
       David's mother isn't much better at holding down a job, and so the whole family winds up building model airplanes for kids who are too lazy to do it themselves, but willing to buy them pre-assembled. It's a plan.
       While in England, David's father met a man who convinced him of the necessity of doing something of significance -- something he is still searching for. David's father tells the boy:
    "Something real," he said. "One has to do something real."
       David has a great talent and love -- for cooking. It is obvious that that is what he is destined to do, and it appears that this will be the "something real" he will devote himself to. The poorest scene in the book has him triumph in fancy restaurant kitchen -- an exaggeration that Möring can't make completely convincing -- but at least the reader comes to understand what a prodigy David is.
       The Dream Room is a coming-of-age novel, and one might imagine that David's recognition and understanding of his culinary talents are what will save him and make him the fully formed adult that neither of his parents is. But there is more to The Dream Room, and other events -- small family stuff again -- lead the story, and David, elsewhere.
       Much of the story David tells is his parents' story, from how they met to some of what they've been through, and it is his parents' vague attempts (barely recognized as such by David) at finding purpose and happiness that colour much of his own life. That his future isn't completely clear is suggested, among other places, in a hilarious scene where David's grandfather announces that David will eventually take over his property and become director of what will become a huge shooting ground:
       I suddenly saw myself standing in front of the house in a kind of red-and-green elf costume, watching a troop of exuberant hunters on horseback as they disappeared into the dunes to slay a dragon.
       "I'm only twelve," I said.
       "Nonsense !" He thrust out his chin. "A man's character is formed in his early youth. At your age, in fact. Playtime is over. Port ?"
       That little scene -- the mix of fantasy and realism, the sensible objection, the grandfather's ridiculous notions (which, however, misguided also hint at greater truths), and the offer of the port -- is nearly perfect, and it is just one example of what Möring can do (and does, very well, throughout the book).
       Playtime is over, it turns out. Events take a slightly darker turn, and the account of David's youth ends quite abruptly. A final chapter jumps many years ahead, to an adult David. Things have turned out differently than one might have expected -- and yet, one feels, exactly as they should.
       The Dream Room isn't a perfect novella: there is a little too little to it, and too much left unsaid -- and there are a few scenes that jar slightly (notably the gourmet-restaurant expedition) -- but it is an exceptional piece of fiction. The writing is very good, the stories well-told, the whole convincing. Strongly recommended.

- Return to top of the page -


The Dream Room: Reviews: Marcel Möring: Other books by Marcel Möring under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See the Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Dutch author Marcel Möring was born in 1957. He is the author of numerous novels, and has won the prestigious Dutch AKO Prize

- Return to top of the page -

© 2002-2009 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links