2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2008
"Nobody Knows What My Dreams Are" is set in Dublin of the 1960s. The narrator, Pat, a man in his 20s, still lives at home in an uneasy relationship with his parents, works unenthusiastically at a middle-of-the-road insurance office, and is generally uninspired by life. He has neither contentment, nor the motivation to seek it out. The course of his life is abruptly altered outside a cinema one Winter afternoon, when 11 year old Andrew - needing an adult to gain entry to the cinema - approaches Pat and asks him to assist. It transpires that Andrew's father died while Andrew was young, and his life is sullen, solitary and joyless. The two develop a symbiotic relationship whose impact upon each of their lives is incalculable.
The novel charts the course of this highly emotional, and at times volatile, relationship over a one year period, with particular focus upon the possibilities it raises for Pat to find a meaningful existence. Although the author's idealism is somewhat strained on occasion, the intensity which engulfs each chapter maintains the novel's compelling pace, and the air of anticipation keeps the pages turning. The vision of a Platonic 'ideal love' that emerges is beautifully captured - if, (perhaps inevitably?) the studied absence of Eros detracts from the relationship's authenticity. The 1960s setting is a significant choice in generating the atmosphere of optimism, cleverly providing a stark and desolate contrast to the joy that neither Andrew nor Pat would have the opportunity to experience today.
Poignant and thought-provoking, "Nobody Knows What My Dreams Are" deserves a widespread readership. The multi-layered thematic messages imbue the novel with broad relevance, regardless of the reader's age or gender, while ensuring that its appeal can be paradoxically specific. It will be fascinating to read more from Patrick Clerkin. Recommended.