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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When dreams become nightmares., 20 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Requiem for a Dream (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
There are four key characters in `Requiem for a Dream': Sara Goldfarb, a lonely widow who spends her days watching television and eating chocolate; her son Harry; Harry's friend Tyrone C. Love and Harry's girlfriend Marion. These four lead us through the depths and despair of addiction.

As the story opens, it's summer in New York City and Harry and Tyrone take Sara's television to the pawn shop. They need the money for drugs. Sara gets her television back - not for the first time - and the reader starts to wonder what will happen next. Sara eats her chocolates, watches television, and worries (sometimes) about Harry. She is lonely without Seymour (her late husband). And then, Sara's phone rings:

`Mrs Goldfarb, this is Lyle Russel of the McDick Corporation.'

Lyle Russel is looking for contestants in game shows and tells Sara that all she needs to do to have a chance to appear on television is fill in a questionnaire. Sara is excited by this, and decides to try to look her best - by losing some weight. Tyrone and Harry are dreaming of getting rich enough to retire: a pound of pure heroin should do it. Tyrone and Harry earn enough money to purchase some drugs and start dealing to people they know. And as the money flows in, Marion and Harry dream of opening a business of their own one day. Elusive things, dreams.

`It wasn't that they couldn't stop using, it was just that this wasn't the time. They had too much to do and they weren't feeling well.'

Time passes, winter arrives, and things start to come apart. Sara's diet hasn't been successful, but one of her neighbours recommends a doctor who prescribes diet pills. Sara becomes addicted, and the McDick Corporation still hasn't contacted her. Meantime, Harry, Tyrone and Marion's heroin supply dries up just as their need becomes greater. And as Harry, Tyrone and Marion become increasingly more desperate for heroin, their dreams disappear and they sink to new depths. No, the consequences of addiction can't happen to them.

`But that woman - I have told you I don't care about that woman. Even if you are correct in your diagnosis and assumptions, the worst that can happen is that she will have a few unnecessary shock treatments.'

It's Sara I feel sorriest for. She is not aware of the dangers of the diet pills, and by the time help is sought the only doctor who tries to treat her as an individual is overridden by other doctors who see symptoms rather than a person. Sara becomes trapped. The other three each face different consequences. There are no happy endings here.

`And let me remind you of something doctor ... harmony breeds efficiency. Good morning.'

This is a difficult novel to read, both because of the stream of consciousness style of writing and the painful depiction of addiction and its consequences. Each of the characters is chasing a dream, an illusion and each will be disappointed. The reader can see it happening, can feel the pain at times, but can do nothing to intervene. It's unsettling, and it's hard to put down this story and walk away.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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