Matthew, an American student living abroad in France, and the twins Théo and Isabelle are all cinephiles obsessed with the nightly showings at the Cinémathèque Française. When the French government suddenly shuts down the theatre, Théo, Isabelle, and Matthew turn instead to each other: isolating themselves in the twins's flat, they become consumed by theatric and sexual games which cross the boundaries of bisexuality and incest--games which continue until they are violently interrupted by the very real events of the French student riots of 1968. Contrasting the unchecked freedom of youth without society against the reality of violent youth within society, Adair's book is at times idealistic, at times uncomfortably taboo, but always thought-provoking. The limited exploration of the lofty concepts can be disappointing, but on the whole this book explores a meaningful and difficult issue. The Dreamers is an apt companion to the film of the same name and, though it is out of print, more readers should be exposed to it--I highly recommend it.
I was introduced to this book via the film, and was disappointed to learn that it is now out of print. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on a copy through inter-library loan (from across the United States). This text, The Dreamers, is an "overwritten" version of the original book The Holy Innocents and was released following the film (for which Adair wrote the screenplay). I have not had the chance to read the original text, and I can say nothing of these updates. As it stands, Adair describes the book as the film's fraternal twin--though twins, the works are not not identical. Indeed, they are similar on many points, even down to the film references and some dialog, but the book approaches the various relationships differently: most noticeably, Matthew and Théo have an explicit homosexual relationship which serves as the completion for the complex triadic coupling between the three youths. With these differences, the book and film are companions, each complimenting the other, and fans of one will enjoy the other as well.
Adair's narrative voice is immediately unique and easy to latch on to. His film references, however obscure, are well enough explained in the book to make sense. His characters are at once haughty and insecure, various faces that together create the quintessential youth. These youths come to live a life which overlooks and breaks boundaries and rules--and here the text comes into itself, and details such as writing style and characterization become secondary padding to the novel's primary issues. Although sexual interaction is often less explicit in the book than the film, the trio's relationships in the book are somehow more taboo and can be uncomfortable even for the most liberal reader. The youths self-isolate into a sealed world of their own fantasies, but these fantasies are at times quite dark. Furthermore, the world of rules and boundaries is never truly forgotten, for Matthew retains a fetish for humiliation--and his humiliation is necessary the result of perceived societal rule-breaking. The idealized isolated stasis that the youths try to create is impossible, and it is ultimately broken by the political riots of the outside world: a similar set of ideals, this time put into decisive action--and so creating a violence that fills and ends the book.
I digress... But my point, of course, is that it is these issues--the ideals of dreamers and the various ways that they try and fail to fulfill them--are the heart of the book. Adair does not explore them in nearly enough depth, but with such broad and important themes the necessary depth is also an unapproachable ideal. Instead, Adair conceptualizes a brilliant theme and then explores it as best he can, using intriguing language, film references, and a cast of three unique characters. I do wish for greater depth, and I think that Adair could have achieved some of it if the book and film were less similar, and so were able to deal with more between them. However, I admire the concept behind this book and the brave way that Adair uses taboo issues to address it. It's a short text with a weighty concept, and provides ample food for thought. More people should be exposed to it, and so I recommend the film and also this book, even if it is somewhat difficult to get ahold of.