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Dancing Days by Anne Marie Forrest - Book Review


Dancing Days
Anne Marie Forrest
Poolbeg Press

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Ana, a little girl intently dressing up in her old friend Celia's jewels. A young woman walking alone to church in her bridal gown. A loving wife who suffers tragic loss but survives to travel to Africa and fall in love. An aging woman who still has an eye for form and likes to take a risk, ride pillion on a motorbike, sing in a woodland glade with a handsome gardener.

Ana, who always depends on life's unexpectedness. When such a woman at last comes to retire, do we believe for a moment that her dancing days are over?

We Say

Our society is driven by material possessions and status to such an extent that most people seem to be unhappy with life, regardless of how high up the social ladder they may be or how much money they may have. For most of these people, much of their life is spent trying to reach the next goal at the expense of truly living. There are those rare individuals who have an inexplicable quality that draws others people to them. Meeting someone who completely embraces all that life has to offer is not an everyday occurrence.

At times, it takes these special people who love life to remind us that life is not as bad as we think it is. In Anne Marie Forrest's novel, Dancing Days, the main character is such an amazing individual. Dancing Days is an entertaining and heartwarming chronicle of one woman's life and her ability to turn tragedy into triumph.

When we are first introduced to Anastasia - or Ana, as she is called - we are presented with an only child filled with energy. Her parents are a morose couple that do not seem to understand their daughter. As a result of the distance between Ana and her parents, Ana spends her childhood sneaking upstairs to visit Celia, one of the boarders that lives with Ana and her family. In Celia, Ana discovers an enduring friendship that stays with her long after Celia passes away. It is through Celia that Ana first discovers her love and penchant for pretty things and total disregard for conventional propriety. Despite this potentially disastrous combination, Ana does not grow up to be a greedy opportunistic woman. Instead, Ana becomes a generous woman who is more concerned about doing what is right than doing what is socially acceptable.

Initially, the story is somewhat confusing because the chapters are dated to correspond with the year of the memory that Ana is recollecting. As Ana's current situation unfolds, the reader is given glimpses into her past that serve to explain Ana's refreshing outlook on life. What the reader discovers is a woman who has had wonderful experiences both tragic and uplifting throughout her life,and who is now faced with her twilight years alone. The story that unfolds is an engaging account of what some may view as a very ordinary woman faced with extraordinary events. However I would argue that the events that occur in Ana's life are not so extraordinary, Ana's reaction to them is. Anne Marie Forrest does an excellent job portraying a woman who has led an amazing life, despite the losses that she suffers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and felt that it was uniquely told, despite having a fairly common theme. Forrest created such a believable and lovable character in Ana that one cannot help but feel hopeful. This novel is a wonderful reminder that even though we may make mistakes or suffer tragic losses, wonderful things may be waiting just around the corner.

Review by: Yumi Nagasaki-Taylor

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