The Serpent’s Tail Book Club

24 May 2022


We are thrilled to be launching our first ever Serpent’s Tail Book Club with Carmen Maria Machado’s incomparable In the Dream House. This is an unforgettable, genre-bending memoir of domestic violence in a queer relationship. We think it makes a great book group read for Pride Month.

Find more about the Serpent’s Tail Book Club and FAOs here.


In the Dream House is a revolutionary memoir about domestic abuse by the prizewinning author of Her Body and Other Parties.

‘Ravishingly beautiful’ Observer
‘Excruciatingly honest and yet vibrantly creative’ Irish Times


In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing experience with a charismatic but volatile woman, this is a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse.

Each chapter views the relationship through a different lens, as Machado holds events up to the light and examines them from distinct angles. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction, infusing all with her characteristic wit, playfulness and openness to enquiry. The result is a powerful book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.


Carmen Maria Machado is the author of Her Body and Other Parties, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and In the Dream House, which was the winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is the Abrams Artist-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philadelphia with her wife.

Follow Carmen on Instagram @carmenmariamachado


Discover Carmen’s literary influences over at her shelf.

Listen to Carmen’s In the Dream House playlist


Much of the memoir concerns the missing evidence of queer lives and the incomplete archive of queer stories. How does Carmen Maria Machado explore this absence in the telling of her own story?

In ‘Dream House as an Exercise in Point of View’, Carmen divides herself into an ‘I’ and a ‘You’, which inform the narration that follows through the rest of the book. How often did these two versions of the character overlap in your reading, if at all, and how conscious did you remain of their separation?

The book explores the expectation that victims of abuse must provide evidence before people can believe them. How does this contradict or compliment the idea of the absence of the archive?

At what point in the story did the Woman’s behaviour towards Carmen turn from worrying to frightening in your eyes? Why?

What would constitute unacceptable behaviour in your own relationships?

What do you make of the idea that queer abuse is about homophobia, in the same way abuse in heterosexual relationships is about sexism?

Carmen Maria Machado often focuses on the corporeal in her writing, perhaps to ground aspects of magical realism. Where is the body situated in In the Dream House and how is it framed within the narrative?

In ‘Dream House as Time Travel’, one of the questions that has haunted Carmen is whether ‘knowing would have made [her] dumber or smarter’. What do you think?

Regarding the legal framework surrounding domestic abuse, alongside the film Gaslight, Carmen Maria Machado notes that the legal system does not provide protection against verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. Although now recognised as a legal cause of action in the UK as well as many US states, how do we talk about consequences for abuse when behaviour cannot be classified as illegal?

What do you imagine the Dream House looks like?