There Should Be More Dancing, written by Rosalie Ham is due to be published in July this year. It was fantastic: witty, dark and intriguing. I remember reading her first book (The Dressmaker) and really loving it for the sort of modern gothic feel. This is completely different but probably better (t's hard to be sure since I read the other one about 10 years ago, but I think so).
I enjoyed the reading experience, while at the same time appreciated technical elements of the structure. The way Ham builds interest, and combines events from past and present to make certain points is great. I mean, who wouldn't read the next chapter to find out about "The Public Scalping Incident", especially when a sweet little old lady is at the heart of it? But actually, she isn't all that sweet - she's a mix of nasty, stuffy, proper and generous. And some other things. Lots of other brilliant things I loved about it but I'd rather people read the book than this review so I'll move on to the next one...
Love In The Years of Lunacy. Like Ham, Mandy Sayer is an Australian author, and has based her novel in the area where she lives. There Should Be More Dancing was all things Brunswick in Melbourne, while Love In The Years of Lunacy is set in the Sydney of World War II. Again, I loved it. Most of it is based around Potts Point and Kings Cross, which is where I live so it was lots of fun to to try and imagine my 'hood peopled with the characters from the book.
Apparently it took Sayer 10 years to write this book. I feel a bit sad that it only took me 3 days to read it! She has clearly spent a lot of time on research and there are some wonderful details about things like the Trocadero ballroom which no longer exists. Despite meticulous research, it doesn't feel forced or overdone; it's all beautifully blended into the story and not just a litany of facts strung together with a bit of dialogue. And the factual detail wouldn't really be much without vivacious, three-dimensional characters. Ultimately, that is what makes you keep reading - caring what happens to the characters.
I followed these two super-new reads with The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I had read it a long time ago but remembered nothing. I am in raptures over this book. I want to sigh and swoon all over this post but it's difficult with a keypad. The language! The poignancy! Oh the poignancy! It is heartbreaking, yet utterly beautiful. There are so many moments that I can vividly imagine, such as when Newland's tears freeze on his eyelashes. I keep thinking about these images; the feeling of the book will haunt me for many weeks. It is an unutterably sad book, but it just would not work at all today. Society and etiquette are so different that although the awful dilemma faced by Ellen and Newland is perfect in its context, it would be laughed away if someone tried to write a book about putting honour and stuff above personal happiness. Well, I think so... I'll be on the lookout for something to crush this thesis.