Dreamers begins with Fran, Pete and Rob in the car trying to find the church where Pete’s photography exhibition is taking place. Fran and Rob are a couple. Pete is Rob’s school friend. Pete tells Fran that Rob was the successful one: he went off to college while Pete, pursued his love of photography by going to work in a camera shop. He says he thought he was happy, collecting his wage each week and then he had a dream:
…there were two of me, and one was saying to the other, ‘use your hands.’ Well, the next morning I woke up and my hands were peeling. Honest.
Pete seems to have started to find his place professionally but it’s noted early on that he’s never had a girlfriend – ‘They think he’s weird’. Fran is also struggling:
Fran was lost in some way. She knew it. Not just in the unfamiliar roads of London, but personally lost. She still didn’t know how or why, but she had a sticky feeling all over her body, constricting her internal organs. An uneasy awareness that things weren’t right.
And something will happen at the exhibition, something with far reaching consequences that will confirm Fran’s intuition is correct.
Dreamers is published as a forty page chapbook but even those few pages show that Priestly is deft at creating characters and bringing a situation to life in a few sentences. Take the description of the London traffic:
The London traffic tightens. The roads here are like a great organic being. Pulsing. Squeezing the blood along the streets. Backing up sometimes and howling with complaint like a strangled intestine.
This is a powerful story of trying to find your way in life. It considers how our dreams clash with societal conventions and the nightmare that can endure when we make choices about which route to follow. It highlights Priestley as one to watch.
You can find out more about Dreamers and Samantha Priestley here.
Thanks to Folded World for the review copy.