Novel set in 1940s TRINIDAD
Novel set in USA (An excellent family saga)
9th October 2015
Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain, novel set in USA (San Diego and North Carolina).
One of the pleasures of working on TripFiction is that we are introduced to new authors all the time – books drop through our door at regular intervals, books where location is a strong feature and enable both the armchair and actual traveller to connect with places that they have visited or would like to visit. Diane Chamberlain’s new book is very firmly set in the USA (San Diego and North Carolina) …and has a real American feel to it, from the climate, language, right down to the place names of small town communities…
Diane is a USA Today and The Sunday Times bestselling author of 24 novels published in more than twenty languages…
Pretending to Dance is very much the story of “family”, with universal themes, foibles, prejudices, love and, of course, hate. Molly is the 14 year old daughter who is a ‘good daughter’ to her father, supporting him in any way she can as he struggles through the later stages of MS. He is a practising therapist, who espouses Pretend Therapy, which is particularly suited to children, and his daughter in many ways has been his guinea pig. If that isn’t pressure for a child….! However, Diane writes about the motives of the family members, their drives, their hopes and passions, yet is clear that their motivations aren’t malicious, they are simply human beings finding their way through rocky patches in life – and she does this really well.
Molly is very much groomed to be her father’s support, typist and all round obliging girl until she meets Chris, a few years older than herself, to whom she is in thrall. And being a teenager she grapples with drives pertinent to her age, contrasted with her “other” responsible and upstanding self, that is present around her father and her family.
Fundamental to the story, and at the heart of this family saga, is the relationship between Graham and his wife Nora, (who is not Molly’s biological mother, but nevertheless serves as a loving parent, carer to her husband, whilst working as a pharmacist). Molly’s biological mother is Amalia, an erstwhile lover of Graham, with whom Molly now takes dance classes. Members of this nuclear family set up, which very much includes Amalia and members of the wider family, all live within spitting distance of each other, in the conurbation of Morrison Ridge, North Carolina. It is an enmeshed familial situation which might seem ideal at some level, but is fraught with tensions. The intentions are good, the consequences however often far reaching, and the secrets that are revealed, oftentimes devastating.
The story of 14 year old Molly serves as a background to grown-up Molly in the present, who cannot conceive a child with her husband, and is going down the route of open adoption; the trials of the process revive traumatic memories of the past and parallels that are all too delineated. The key to the storyline is how Molly manages her past and starts to work on ways of reconciling it with her experience in the present.
OK, the set up of this family is unusual by any standards, but the human dynamics within it are ubiquitous and it is the consummate skill of the author to be able to render the ordinary within the parameters of a rather convoluted family dynamic. The strands come together beautifully and she tackles themes of early adolescence, family relationships, secrets, life and death and the complex dynamics of adoption – to name but a few themes within the book – with insight and sensitivity. A winner.
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Tina for the TripFiction Team
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