Dreamhouse

Alison Habens, Author Picador USA $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14086-1
This clever first novel mutates elements from Lewis Carroll's Alice books into a hip, highly charged, ultramodern coming-of-age tale. Celia (an anagram for Alice) lives uneasily with three other 20-something housemates in London: Cath, a hippy; Phoebe, a beautiful but frightening feminist; and quiet, mysterious Dodge. Celia's recent engagement to boring banker Kenneth (whom she barely knows) allows her to finally throw the engagement party she has always obsessed about. As the novel opens, the party is set for the following evening in her room. But, in classic farce fashion, each of the housemates-they barely speak to one another-has planned a party. Which turns out to be lucky for Celia: when she finds herself muddling everything at her own soiree, she steps out for a breather and gets lured to Cath's room by a trail of raspberry tarts (later revealed to be jam-packed with marijuana). There, she finds people are dressed as characters from the Alice books. Celia's long blonde hair and sky-blue dress gain her instant respect, and Habens hilariously conveys her disorientation. Later, Celia switches clothes with a closet transvestite, which leads to a case of mistaken identity. Events grow even more dramatically surreal, but ultimately Celia admits she doesn't want to marry a man she doesn't love and literally disappears from the ``dreamhouse.'' Throughout, Habens's prose is taut with wit and wordplay, and she maintains a happily hallucinogenic light touch. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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FORMATS
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-312-15114-0
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