Book Review: Dancing in the Shadows of Love by Judy Croome (DNF)
September 21, 2011 16 Comments
This book I received from the author for review. From the description it sounded like a book I would enjoy and the author, Judy Croome, is from South Africa, which made a nice change from the many American and UK authors I read.
A change it was, definitely, but maybe not for the better. I’m afraid I probably missed the whole point of the book.
DNF: My review is based on the first 100 pages of the book as I did not finish it.
Dancing in the Shadows of Love: What it is about
The book tells the story of three women who have had a difficult past. The chapters in the book alternate between the women, and start in an undetermined “the past”.
One of the women is Lulu, in her late twenties, an albino, who has been discriminated against all her life, and rejected when she thought she had found love. Jamila is Lulu’s age and has had a difficult and poor childhood. Engaged to a rich man, she hopes to be able to forget about her past. Finally, Zahra, who is Jamila’s mother-in-law to-be also has a secret or two that she has never shared with anyone.
Zahra and Jamila are both fascinated by a forbidden man: they are already attached to someone else, but can’t help being attracted by these men. Lulu is single and already happy when people treat her as a normal person, it’s all she hopes for.
A large role in the story is for the court, in which The Spirit King is important, and these turn out to be the church and God (possibly). Lulu and Jamila feel that the Spirit King, whom they’ve been told loves them, has abandoned them as much as the people close to them in the past have.
Dancing in the Shadows of Love: What I thought
I enjoyed learning about the three main characters and felt sorry for the damage that was done to them in their early lives. After the first introduction of the main characters (their past, and their current life) I wasn’t sure where the book would go. It seemed to have reached an impasse. I started to lose interest and at page 100, I gave up.
The writing was evocative and enjoyable at first. Only, after a while I found the writing becoming too much. It was so rich, so full of metaphors and qualifications. Often I wanted the author to be more succinct rather than trying to create poetry in every sentence.
Now, before you ask: No, I don’t read books about religion. That’s were some of the problem lays, as I think there is a bit too much religion in here, in the form of The Spirit King. Or call it spirituality? Anyway, topics that I am not interested in.
The terms with which religion was described confused me totally and after a while, I found it annoying. There is a glossary (non-alphabetical!) at the beginning of the book, explaining the various terms, e.g., Spirit King was translated as “A supreme being (e.g., God)”, and “court” was “any place of worship” (note that the glossary was full of indefinites (i.e., “a” and “any”)). The glossary (or the text in the book) didn’t explain whether these were terms used by a particular religious/ethnic group so I couldn’t work out whether the author had made these up herself or whether these are actual words used in a particular part of the population. This was maybe vague on purpose, but it never became clear to me why.
Since I didn’t understand the background of these unusual terms, I didn’t see why they were used rather than the standard “God” or “church”. After a while, the use of “Spirit King” started to annoy me no end. As it was, why not use “God” rather than “Spirit King”, i.e., why make up (?) a new name?
The same is true for the country the story took place in. Which country? There was The War (which war?) going on in the country “to the north of this country” and the characters were living in “the Sea City”. Again, why so vague, why not use a particular country and city in this story?
A final point of frustration were the small font and the many lines on each page. The pleasure of reading is not only determined by the words in the book, but also by the book itself, its format, the font and line spacing.
In all, I found it a bit of a frustrating read. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for me, I did like the characters, but after a while, the story didn’t seem to go anywhere. There were no obvious questions that needed to be answered except about one mysterious man that I found a bit of a creep. On the whole, this book was too vague for me and not anchored down in place, time, people and religion. It was not for me.
I did have the feeling that there was a lot more to the book than I got out of it, but the review is about the book and my experience of reading it, and this is all I could make of it. I can imagine that more spiritually inclined readers may enjoy the book a lot more than me.
I got this book: from the author for review
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 154
First published: 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction