Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dance Lessons

Dance Lessons: A NovelDance Lessons by Aine Greaney
digital galley provided by NetGalley
expected publication date: March 30, 2011
Description from publisher website:
A year after her husband’s death in a sailing accident off Martha’s Vineyard, Ellen Boisvert bumps into an old friend. In this chance encounter, she discovers that her immigrant husband of almost fifteen years was not an orphan after all. Instead, his aged mother Jo is alive and residing on the family’s isolated farm in the west of Ireland.


Faced with news of her mother-in-law incarnate, the thirty-nine-year-old American prep school teacher decides to travel to Ireland to investigate the truth about her husband Fintan and why he kept his family’s existence a secret for so many years.

Between Jo’s hilltop farm and the lakeside village of Gowna, Ellen begins to uncover the mysteries of her Irish husband’s past and the cruelties and isolation of his rural childhood. Ellen also stumbles upon Fintan’s long-ago romance with a local village woman, with whom he had a daughter, Cat. Cat is now fourteen and living with her mother in London. As Ellen reconciles her troubled relationship with Fintan, she discovers a way to heal the wounds of the past.

Deeply rooted in the Irish landscape and sensibility, Dance Lessons is a powerful story of loss, regret, and transformation.

My take:
This was one of the toughest reviews to write. I really loved the book, but I found it difficult to get my thoughts on paper. I had no expectations when I started reading this book, but I was quickly caught up in the stories of Ellen, Jo and Cat. I found the story to be intriguing and haunting.


Ellen is trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life after the sudden death of her Irish born husband when she finds out that her mother-in-law isn’t dead as her husband told her. She feels that she should try to find some answers about why he had lied about his mother being dead and just maybe, she might find some answers about her husband’s seemingly deep rooted anger and possibly what might have played a part in their marriage falling apart. Because the story unfolds so gradually, I got completely wrapped up in the drama of their lives and couldn’t stop reading. Without giving away too many plot points, the story tells of difficult situations that may not have been – no, they just weren’t handled very well and the lack of open discussion about feelings and life situations only leads to even more pent up resentments and strained relationships. Ellen finds the answers she seeks and in the process, I thought she learned some important things about her husband, his life and family, about people in general and about herself.

While I would have loved more detail at the end of the book, I also feel that it fits with the story overall and it works. This story has really stayed with me and continues to occupy my thoughts.

I also loved the wonderful descriptions of rural Ireland, the isolated farm and the locals that inhabit the small town that Jo lives in. I would most definitely recommend this book.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

 






It's Friday! That means  it's time for Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jenn at Crazy For Books. This is a fun meme where bloggers get to find new and interesting blogs to read and follow. Post your link, answer the question, find fun new blogs to read.
  
This week's question for Book Blogger Hop is:  
Who is your all-time favorite book villain?"
Oh my! This is a good one!  I probably have several, but since I have been reading The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss lately, the only one I can think of right away is Ambrose.  He is such a horrible person -- so far, anyway. I don't know how the book or the series will end, but right now, Ambrose is my favorite villain. Is favorite the right word? Because I really don't like him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You













You by Nuala Ni Chonchuir
purchased from Kennys Bookshop
Description from publisher website:
Debut novel from established short-story writer and poet about a 10-year-old girl who lives with her separated mother and two brothers. Set against the semi-urban backdrop of the River Liffey in 1980, the story unfolds through the narrator’s observations and interactions, and her naïve interpretations of adult conversations and behaviour. Heartbreaking at times, but also optimistic, humorous and enchanting.

My take:
This book was sent to me by Des Kenny in my latest parcel through Kennys bookclub*. I had no expectations about the book except that it must be good because all the books Des sends are good. This book was rather unusual -- I have never read another book written quite like this one.  Rather than try to explain, let me demonstrate by quoting the first few lines of the book:
Your ma used up all the juice again. Last week you asked could she get two cartons of orange from now on, instead of only one, because there was never any for you and your brother Liam.
The entire book is written this way.  I gather that this is where the title comes from. Once I got over my first uncertainty about this manner of writing, I was drawn into the story. The story is told from the point of view of a ten year old girl and it is captivating. The reader gets a view of how she sees people and events and attempts to understand what is going on around her -- often failing to really understand how the adults in her life think or feel.  While written from the point of view of a child, the picture of the people involved is complete and sympathetic. This is a troubled family and the tragedy that strikes them resonated with me. So tragic and yet there is humor and optimism there too. I was really impressed at how well this story worked. I read the book in about a day total. It was hard to put down once I got involved in the story. There is so much that I would love to discuss, but I don't want to give too much away -- this book should be discovered by each reader on their own.  This story keeps popping into my head and I am sure I will have to read it again.

*Kennys Bookclub is a wonderful service provided by Des Kenny. I blogged about it early on, but the basics are this:
  • You choose the amount you want to spend on books and at what intervals you would like the books sent to you.
  • Des picks the books that are sent -- subject to approval. If you don't like them, you can return them. However, I have yet to be disappointed in anything that has been sent to me so far.
Every time I receive a parcel, it's like Christmas -- it really is a surprise because you don't know exactly which books will be included. If anyone is interested in Irish literature, I would recommend Kenny's Choice: 101 Irish books you MUST read  by Des Kenny as a starting reference point.