Endless Love Book Review
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
This review contains major spoilers for Endless Love
Read from ~07/12/2015 - 07/17/2015
Read from ~07/12/2017- 08/17/2017
Read from ~07/14/2021 - 07/29/2021
On February 14, 2014, to celebrate Valentine's Day, me and my girlfriend at the time went to the movies to watch Endless Love. It was nothing to write home about — it was one of the most generic movies I’ve ever seen, with the nicest thing I can say about it being that it's mediocre. It's best described as a "Budget Nicholas Sparks Movie." Still, it got the job done of being an inoffensive valentines movie for two teenagers in love. I left the theater enjoying Endless Love — it had that "glow" that movies have when you watch them during a good date. I enjoyed it so much that I became interested in reading the book it was adapted from.
2014's Endless Love was the second film adaptation of the eponymous novel by Scott Spencer. I'll refrain from writing a long aside on both film's lack of quality; after all, Scott Spencer himself said it best in a 2014 interview — "what none of these folks seem to get is that Endless Love was meant to be a knife to the reader’s heart, not the writer’s." My girlfriend and I were big readers, so after seeing the movie, we wanted to read the book together. That ended up never happening. A little over a year after we had watched the movie, I was dumped. Brutally. We had been together for about a year and a half. I was a teenager who knew all too well of the electricity and pain of first love. My experience is why I was as receptive to Endless Love as I was.
I finally decided to give the book a try in July of that year, reading a pdf that I found online. Ebooks aren't my preferred method of reading, but I feverishly read the book in five days all the same. In the wake of my breakup, when my feelings were still raw, reading Endless Love was very validating, cathartic, and in a strange sort of way, therapeutic.
But don't go thinking that I only love this book due to reading it at the right place at the right time — it held up beyond the circumstances surrounding my initial read. Two years later, during my freshman year of college, an assignment for one of my classes was to analyze a good piece of writing. The opening to Endless Love stuck with me as particularly striking. In order to better analyze the opening paragraph, I finally bought Endless Love. With the book right in front of me, I couldn't help myself, and so I re-read Endless Love, making it one of the few novels I've read more than once. I found that I still loved the book and it was no less gripping despite knowing of the developments that shocked me during my initial read. Finishing Endless Love for the second time solidified it as my second favorite book. After finishing the book, I wrote a review of it on Goodreads. That review is partly why I decided to read it for a third time.
The Goodreads review doesn't meet my current reviewing standards. While I don't have something substantial to say about everything I watch and/or read, this isn't the case for Endless Love. This is one of those stories that I feel deserves a sprawling, comprehensive review; Endless Love can't adequately be contained in a 181-word box. I feel I owe it to Endless Love to give it my all.
I hope in reviewing it, in expressing my passion, it might one day get the recognition it deserves. In 2021, Endless Love is a fairly obscure book. While it was hailed by the New York Times as "one of the best books of the year," was on its Best Seller List (as stated by one of the book's covers), and was even a National Book Awards Finalist, its accolades haven't quite translated to longevity. In its prime, Endless Love was popular enough to net a movie deal, but this side of the 2000s, it and its films are all but unknown. At this point, the most enduring thing to its name is the eponymous charting ballad by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie which served as the main theme for the 1981 adaptation. If my ex never happened to see a trailer for the 2014 movie, I would never have known this book existed and that's a damn shame. I want to do my best to prevent this book from fading from consciousness. I know it's vain, but I want more people reading and talking about this book and I hope that one day, this review can facilitate that. I know my blog is small right now, but believe you me, I will repost the crap out of this review if I have to.
The other, less grandiose reason why I decided to re-read Endless Love was because, after a two-hit combo of books I didn't enjoy, I wanted to return to something that was tried and true. Yet I'm aware that there's a danger in returning to the things you love. You just might discover that the you who initially fell in love with it is different from the you who’s revisiting it today. It's not like my fear is unfounded, after all, the aforementioned Kafka review essentially ended with me realizing that I didn't like someone who was once my favorite author. I preemptively prepared for the worst — earlier in the year, I made a shelf on Goodreads called "old favorites" and moved Endless Love there. I approached the book cautiously, knowing that I very well could fall out of love with it.
I'm happy to say that wasn't the case; I still love this book from the bottom of my heart. Endless Love is a book that's evolved with me, my views of it growing more nuanced as I grow older, yet at its core, it still resonates with me in the same way.
The Stunning Beginning
The best way to kick off this review is by looking at the introductory paragraphs because just from the first page, you start to see what makes this book so great.
When I was seventeen and in full obedience to my heart’s most urgent commands, I stepped far from the pathway of normal life and in a moment’s time ruined everything I loved-I loved so deeply, and when the love was interrupted when the incorporeal body of love shrank back in terror and my own body was locked away, it was hard for others to believe that a life so new could suffer so irrevocably. But now, years have passed and the night of August 12, 1967, still divides my life.
The first paragraph masterfully immerses us into the voice of our protagonist, David Axelrod. It’s quite loquacious and dire, wonderfully introducing us to the self-important tone of the novel to come. Through this self-importance, Spencer accurately showcases the sensation of first love, the mind of a teenager that only knows that love and puts everything about it on a pedestal, puffing up its significance. An impartial account this ain't — this is more like a feverish, raw diary entry, unaware or uncaring of how "cringey" it might come across as in its passion.
For as many people that are turned on by this initial paragraph, there are just as many turned off. If you don't find this gripping and exciting (like I did), you'll find it groan-inducing and eyeroll worthy. This sounds like some kid being overdramatic. What could he have possibly done to warrant such wax poetic? In "Endless Amour: A Steamy Story Of Teenage Passion" as part of his "Guilty Pleasures" series, Ben Dolnick writes that "upon reading the deeply serious opening [...], you will very likely laugh out loud." He goes on to write that the subject matter of "love between teenagers" is easy to dismiss. I'd be inclined to agree with Dolnick if not for the second paragraph.
It was a hot, dense Chicago night. There were no clouds, no stars, no moon. The lawns looked black and the trees looked blacker; the headlights of the cars made me think of those brave lights the miners wear, up and down the choking shaft. And on that thick and ordinary August night, I set fire to a house inside of which were the people I adored more than anyone else in the world, and whose home I valued more than the home of my parents.
If a reader was laughing before, the smile might slowly slide off their face as their eyes dart back to where they started to make sure they read that right. Here, it's made abundantly clear that this is a different beast entirely from what readers might have assumed. This isn't a tale of innocent, harmless puppy love. This is a type of wolf love, snarling, hungry, and dangerous. Suddenly, the dire tone makes sense. This isn't some kid exaggerating — with a nasty act of arson to his name, it's quite believable that this fateful night changed David's life. In two short paragraphs, our expectations are built up then torn down. This is a love that’s so fierce that it's become an obsession as destructive as the flames set to the Butterfield home.
The entire stretch of the opening scene is pure gold. The decision to place us en media res is a brilliant one. The event energizes the book to come and the adrenaline derived from it powers us through some of the more lull sections. In beginning with the dissolution of David's relationship with the Butterfields instead of what led to it, Spencer creates an air of mystery, leaving readers eager to connect the dots. The decision also makes it clear we're supposed to focus on less what happened and more on how David feels about what's happened. The opening scene is great at characterization through small details. We get a sense of the Butterfields as a family when we discover that they’re taking LSD together during the night of the fire. David's utter obsession for to be with Jade and the rest of the Butterfields is solidified once we learn that David started the fire to draw out the family after being banished from their household for a mere 17 days. As far as David knew, he only had to endure 13 more days of staying away from Jade.
On David Axelrod
David is the main character of Endless Love and who we experience the book through. In that initial scene, despite the fact that David commits arson, which is an act that most readers wouldn't go through with, there's a sense that David could be you. If you've been in love and know its pain, you might identify with David and see yourself in him. Naturally, this is an unsettling feeling. You don't want to be David, you don't want to see yourself in the type of guy who sets their girlfriend’s house on fire after being gone for seventeen days. Even if David's actions go beyond what you yourself would commit to, it might be hard to deny his thoughts and feelings. After all, the story begins with thoughts that are relatable, albeit melodramatic. I think a big part of the disconnect comes from the fact that David acts out what would only be a passing thought to readers. In an unintended moment of self-reflection, David states that "[we] have two minds, a private one, which is usually strange, and a public, a social one. [...] Sometimes the public mind is such a total bummer and the private self is alive with beauty and danger and secrets and things that don't make any sense but that repeat and repeat and demand to be listened to." David, thus, is a man whose private mind is woefully, terrifyingly public, acting out his desires no matter how inappropriate or ill-thought. No matter how you slice it, David's reasoning for starting the fire is ridiculous. A more palatable, depressing example of David's dilemma are his feelings toward Jade — many have been through not being able to get over an ex, and perhaps love really is endless in theory, but in practice, we all must move on if we hope to have fulfilling lives. But David, ever chained to his private, true emotions, can never truly move on. This is what I mean when I say Endless Love is validating, as it shows that you're not alone in your intense feelings. Yet it's cathartic in showing what happens when you let those emotions control you. There's definitely a bit of schadenfreude when reading David's antics where you're left thinking "well at least I'm not that guy." It's cathartic because while many can be lovesick, few can say they're obsessed to the point that David is.
While one can see aspects of themselves in David throughout the book, as it goes on, he bucks against self-insertion and makes it very clear that he isn't just a stand-in for the concept of first love. He starts doing things that one wouldn't think of doing, he has his own personality, and his relationships with other characters make him a distinct person. A distinct person you may-or-may-not like.
This isn't a criticism so much as a warning of sorts: because of how prominent he is, your enjoyment of Endless Love lives and dies by your feelings toward David. It really is as all-or nothing as it sounds — if you love literally everything else about this book but dislike David, I'm sure you'd hate this book. There are several reasons why David could rub a reader the wrong way.
One big factor is if whether or not you actually can identify with David. While I just talked about how you can see yourself in David, this entire review is filtered through the lens of a self-proclaimed hopeless (yet morose) romantic. If you're not able to believe the romantic aspect at all, you'll just see David for the obsessive tendencies that he has. It's a more objective viewpoint, to be sure, but without a hint of relatability mooring you, it's easy to get swept up into David's storm and leave this novel feeling nothing but disgust. Even if you do buy into the romance but don't quite buy into how intense David is, the book will end up feeling overwrought. Given how much eroticism plays into David's relationship with Jade, I imagine it's hard to get much out of this book if you're on the ace spectrum. And if you're aromantic, I'd imagine you'd get nothing out of this.
There’s also David's personality. Again, here we have a very intense guy in which everything is important and stays important. Sex is almost invariably "making love" to him. David admits that nothing is the past to him. He flipflops between bouts of introspection and ignoring his problems. If he does reflect upon himself, he'll often shrug and think there's nothing to be done about it. David has a real selfish bent and can be surprisingly manipulative even to himself, such as when he convinces himself not to tell the Butterfields he inadvertently led to Hugh's death. David can be a supremely frustrating character to follow, even if you think he's well-written. His flaws make him into a very real character, eliciting very real groans. At best, he's a dope, at worst, he's an asshole.
A third reason one might not like David is a pretty big one — if you can’t sympathize with him. This just goes beyond being able to relate to him, as it asks readers if they're able to go beyond themselves and empathize with his plight. This, naturally, forces readers to wonder if he even has a plight to begin with. While it's not the only way he can be sympathetic, a big part of this is the role of mental illness or lack thereof. Depending on your perspective, David's actions are either due to some untreated ailment or due to him, again, just being an asshole. Is his obsession truly something he can't control, or something he just goes through with because he sees it as nobler than getting his act together? It's implied that David is receiving treatment (since he's been prescribed lithium) for bipolar disorder towards the end of the book, though this doesn’t really explain nor excuse all of his actions.
David is notable in his character arc, or rather, lack thereof. Throughout the book, David doesn't change. He is as in love with Jade at the beginning of the novel as he is at the end. "I don't want to say it, I truly don't, [...but...] what was ignited when I loved you continues to burn," he says on the final page, closing the novel out a paragraph later with "I see your face, I see you, you, l see you in every seat." David's inability/refusal to change is part of what makes him such a compelling, tragic character. This lack of change, while making him static in some regards, doesn't make him flat. As I've laid out in the various ways one can view him, he is a complex character; larger than life due to his actions, but still feeling like a real person. Whether you shirk away from David due to seeing him as an unrepentant monster or are filled with a sense of unease by seeing him as a smudgy mirror, it's hard to deny that he feels like a realized character.
Even if the story is told via David and is predominantly about him, it still manages to be more. Particularly through the characters of Ann, Rose, and Arthur, this is a story about how love persists in various forms.
While David’s obviously the character we're given the most space to ruminate on, every member of the principal cast feels realized. I've heard some criticize Endless Love for having no likable characters. At its core, I don't disagree — almost all the characters are disagreeable for some reason or another. There really isn't a character you're rooting for. What I do disagree with is the framing of this fact; that these characters being unlikable is a flaw. What's important to note is that these are all placed in messy situations, trying to deal with them the best they can, dealing with them in ways that cause their character flaws to rear their ugly heads. The characters can be quite unlikeable because, much like with David, Spencer is committed to making them feel like complex people. While the characters may be unlikeable, they are not unsympathetic, which is more important. It's telling that Rose, who is my least favorite character, could still garner sympathy from me due to her own history with lost love and little snippets that show that, despite her acerbic personality, she does love her family. I similarly didn't like Keith's hostile and egocentric personality, but given that we generally only see him whilst confronting the man responsible for his family going up in flames, I can't help but feel for him. On the other side of the spectrum, Arthur is perhaps one of the nicer characters, but even he has some questionable tendencies like prying Rose away from not only her love but her fortune due to his own sense of ego and pride.
But all other supporting characters pale in comparison to Jade Butterfield, whom Spencer employs masterfully. As David's obsession with her is the driving force of the novel, she occupies a lot of narration as David ruminates on their relationship. While we certainly hear a lot about Jade, she remains unseen and un-interacted with for a good portion of the story. This gives her a sense of mystique and ethereality. Only seen in the confines of David's mind, she reads more like a force and less like a human. We're forced to question and wonder just who Jade is when not looking through the rose-colored glasses of David. It's a bold choice, one not replicated by the weak of heart — Brooke Shields and Gabriella Wilde, leading ladies of the 1981 and 20014 films, respectively, are in their films from the beginning. Meanwhile, Spencer's Jade doesn't appear in the present day until page 266 of 418. She's only in the plot proper for about 120 pages (with a good half of this being dedicated to one scene), but she leaves a big impact and gives us a lot to chew on. In the relatively brief glance we get of her, we see she's as complex as the rest of them. Some may see her unlikable because of her flippantness towards her family, but her feelings are humanly complicated. The Butterfields come with a lot of baggage, the family is "crazy," as she describes them, yet despite that, she still loves them even if she wants distance. One might object to her getting back together with David after all he did to her family, especially as it's the night after her father's funeral (which David inadvertently caused, unbeknownst to Jade at the time). This, too, is up for interpretation. While she certainly harbors affection towards David, it's easy to read her as being overwhelmed from grief towards her father and her complicated feelings towards David, leading her to do something she wouldn't if she were in a more stable headspace. Furthermore, Jade makes it apparent that her original intention isn't to have sex with David, and when she does, she wants to fuck, not make love. I wouldn't say that David quite oversteps her consent, but by breaking down her barriers and by being so self-absorbed that he doesn't see how vulnerable she is (or indeed, perhaps he simply doesn't care), David compromises Jade's resolution to stay distant. Jade, like David, is a very real, complex, and tragic character who you can't help but sympathize with even if you don't exactly agree with her actions. Together, they and the rest of the characters weave a compelling dance of emotional tango. To this end, David and Jade make the perfect partners for this novel.
But don’t go thinking that the characters do all the heavy-lifting. While this is an example of literary fiction, a genre known for having plots that are somewhat listless at “best” and completely non-existent at "worst", Endless Love features a tangible, gripping plot. While there certainly are moments when David isn't doing much, most of the story is driven by his destructive desire to get closer to Jade, either emotionally or physically, whether its setting fire to her house, arguing for a better lawyer so he can escape the psych ward he's confined to, breaking into his father's office and reclaiming Jade's confiscated letters to him, or breaking parole to go to New York to visit Ann Butterfield in hopes that she'll lead him to Jade. David just keeps spiraling and spiraling, which is remarkable because of how low David started. The tale is gripping and haunting; David's journey of obsession and his complete and total disregard for the consequences of his actions is like a trainwreck you can't look away from.
In the midst of the story's sadness, you'll latch onto the brief moments of respite. It could be something as minor as when David runs into an old classmate of his. Before David begins acting like...well, David, again, the conversation is extremely shallow in a way that's comforting, making you think David might be able to make it in a normal life. It could be something more major like Arthur seeming to find love again. Most substantially, later on, the section where David and Jade are living together is weirdly sweet. You start to forget who David is and what he's done, hoping what they share can last forever.
While I've talked at length about this book's depth, a remarkable thing about this book is that you can engage with it superficially. Sure, you'll lose a lot, but you'll still be able to have a good time. If they so choose, readers can simply focus on the aforementioned trainwreck. Hell, it's how I myself have glibly advertised the book on occasion. To wit, we have sex-induced insomnia, the main character burning down his girlfriend’s house while she and her family are inside (and while they’re all high out of their minds) because he wants to see her again, several stays in mental institutions, multiple incidents of assault, interstate travel parole breaking, the main character's father leaving his mother due to finding love then having said love die soon after, the main character's ex-girlfriend's mother presenting him with an indecent proposal, the main character inadvertently leading causing his ex-girlfriend's father to be fatally hit by not just one but two cars, the main character's father suffering from a heart attack, and about ten pages of menstrual sex (including bloody cunnilingus). At one point, David compares his life to a Greek tragedy, which is painfully accurate. The book is so melodramatic that if you're not swayed by David's emotion, you'll read the book as nothing more than a dark comedy. And that's alright, you'll still be entertained by this book. I know that few authors want to hear "people can enjoy your work even if they don't take it seriously," but I say that as a form of praise. It isn't every day that you come across a book that's as provocative as this one. Neither of the film adaptations has been true to Endless Love, but I think it could work well as a TV show. The increased runtime would give this deceptively long story (it takes place in the span of almost ten years) some breathing room, the aforementioned plot points would generate buzz, and they'd make for some killer cliffhangers.
Diving back down past the more superficial elements, it's remarkable how revealing Endless Love can be. As you read the story, you'll invariably think of your own history with love, your own heartbreaks, your own first times, or lack thereof. You'll think of the ones who got away, the ones you're with now, the ones you dream of, the ones you wish you could stop thinking of. All of the characters' musings and reflections on love invite the reader to offer up their own experiences. Endless Love makes for a very private reading experience just due to how vulnerable you can get while reading. It can hit you like a truck and does so with no horn as a warning. You'll be reading a paragraph one moment and in the next, you're sinking in your thoughts. It's hard for me to imagine reading this book in public.
Neither the plot nor characters would be as gripping as they are without Spencer's wonderful prose tying everything together.
David's diction is loquacious, but not overly so. It's just the amount needed to showcase his grandiose personality while still not being hard to read.
The descriptions of this book are absolutely great. The descriptions of location are detailed, yet ultimately succinct, leaving room for description that matters — David's outlook towards the world. The voice is very distinct, and we learn a lot about David (or at least, how David thinks of himself) through his thoughts. No matter your feelings towards him, it's hard to deny that he has some beautiful thoughts.
I enjoy how information is released in Endless Love. As we begin our story after David's time with the Butterfields is past him, the events during this time are given via flashbacks, yet never in a way that feels forced. When we go to the past, it's still very much moored to the present — a character's action or thought in the present will launch us organically to the previous time and it's still filtered through the characters of the present — it's just so immersive that in hindsight, it might seem like we were given a proper flashback.
Given that this is my third time reading Endless Love, it's remarkable how suspenseful the book still is. This is also thanks to the prose, as Spencer does a great job of slowing down the action when something bad is going to happen — we can distinctly feel when the ground is about to drop below David Axelrod yet again. Even when we're not in suspenseful moments, there's a perennial "heaviness" to David's narration. You'll be spending a good third of the book with your stomach in a nervous knot.
No matter if it was my initial, second, or third read-through of the book, my eyes would often dart across the pages at high speed. I was just that engrossed that I had to skim, I had to see what happened next. Reading ten pages of Endless Love can feel like two and I ended up finishing the book earlier than I intended. It's a testament to this book's prose and pacing that my initial read took less than a week.
In saving the best for last, the final bit of praise I want to give is in regards to its eroticism. For some time now, I've been on the lookout for works that incorporate sex in a serious story, and Endless Love is largely to blame, as it showed me how masterfully sex can be used in literature. It introduced me to the idea that depictions of sex aren't just something relegated to a website with an orange and black UI that you only visit under the cloak of incognito mode. The sex on display isn't just meant to stimulate, but intrigue. Sex plays a big part in the story — from how David refuses even masturbate when he's away from Jade to the fact that David and Jade would have constant sex. They aren't for everyone, but I for one was struck by how vivid Spencer's descriptions are. Even the more laughable aspects of sex in this story seem to have a purpose. David describes Jade's anus as a "frightened puppy" which goes to show just how surprisingly prude he can be when it comes to sex (in this instance, he dislikes the concept of anal). In a scene that'll hit most people with penises with a phantom ache, David is described as ejaculating several times in a night while having sex with Jade; instead of firing blanks, his emission is described as being more fruitful. It works because if there's a madlad who somehow doesn't need a refractory period, it's probably David Axelrod. The description of Jade and David's first time is depicted as wonderfully, contagiously intimate. Sex is such a prominent aspect of this book that, along with the fire, its signature scene is David and Jade having sex while she's on her period. The craziest thing is that, while it's a scene that makes many uncomfortable due to the concept, while it's a scene depicted in squeamish detail, there are moments of actual tenderness, moments where the eroticism shines. To be blunt, there are parts of this scene where it's still kind of hot? At least a little? And naturally, it's not only hot, but it serves a purpose. In David's willingness to have sex with Jade while she's on her period, we see how nothing will turn him away from being with Jade constantly. It's obviously a bit frightening in context. In Jade's frustration in the scene, we see David's idyllic, warped, sinisterly perfect idea of love.
Though of course, not everything is sunshine and rainbows and I have to acknowledge the flaws of things I love.
While it's something that I personally enjoy about the book, I'd imagine many might dislike the fact that David stays the same throughout, possibly finding it unfulfilling. This also is shown structurally, as well — while no one dies, it's a bit hard to top burning a house down in terms of drama. While it might feel like things are ramping up and there are many curveballs thrown the reader's way, when you step back and look at the big picture, you realize that arguably the direst action David takes happens one page in. It would be one thing if this was a story about healing, but it's not; it's largely a story of David continuing to spiral. While I think it works, I can understand the argument that there's not much spiraling to be had.
A flaw of the story that I do take issue with is the fact that, for as much as David can get lost in his head, there are times where he displays a surprising lack of introspection. These moments are mainly his reactions or rather lack thereof, to Ann's letters. The letters take a decent number of pages and while they impart important information to the readers, they don't feel satisfying since David doesn't react to them at all. It isn't as if there's nothing to react to — for example, the first letter reveals that Hue didn't independently banish David from the Butterfield house, but that he was urged to by Jade. This is a reveal that should be a bombshell, but it's completely ignored by David. While this could be deliberate on David's part, it doesn't really feel like it on the author's part because David barely acknowledges the contents of the letters. It just feels like a missed opportunity and somewhat like a waste of time.
In a similar vein, while I get that authors don't have an infinite amount of words, I feel like David's stays in mental institutions are blitzed past and we could explore his feelings more.
While I like David's voice, it feels like it somewhat bleeds into other characters. When Ann talks like him, I don't think it's that bad, as the two are described as kindred spirits to the point where the rest of the family is convinced that David was cheating on Jade with her. It's when characters such as Jade speak in the same loquacious manner as David that I start thinking things are unrealistic. Even if you could make the argument that it's because it's filtered through David, I'd retort that it just makes it read as stale.
But these are minor gripes more than anything, so minor that they don't really detract from my score, as the things I love about this book shine brighter than the things I dislike. While it might not be a perfect book, but it's practically a perfect book to me. It's nothing short of a work of art that. It takes us to a world, a perspective different from our own, but can still resonate with us. Through the medium of an engaging story, it imparts us with a general human truth that can connect people of differing backgrounds. Like a great painting, it means something different to each person that looks at it. I thought that my reception of this story would change. While my thoughts toward some of the characters and scenarios grow more nuanced, while I notice things I didn't before, my core feeling remains. My love for this novel is endless.
It was only vanity and discouragement that made me feel alone with my endless love, but now that I was taking one of the risks my heart had urged upon me I could also feel I was not alone. If endless love was a dream, then it was a dream we all shared, even more than we all shared the dream of never dying or traveling through time, and if anything set me apart, it was not my impulses but my stubbornness, my willingness to take the dream past what had been agreed upon as the reasonable limits, to declare that this dream was not a feverish trick of the mind but was an actuality as least as real as that other, thinner, more unhappy illusion we call normal life.