17/05/2014

The Horse Dancer (by Jojo Moyes)

I've read three or four books by Jojo Moyes and enjoyed them all. So I put a few more of them on my wishlist a few months ago, and was delighted to receive some of this, and one or two others for my birthday.

I felt that'The Horse Dancer' was a bit slow to get started; I'm not a horse-lover, and - unsurprisingly - a horse features quite strongly in the book. I admit I skimmed some of the horsey sections, but that wasn't a problem.

There are two stories at first, running alongside each other. One is of an almost-divorced couple who have to sort out their house and hope to do so amicably. Mac is a cheerful photographer, Natasha is quite an uptight lawyer. The other storyline features 14-year-old Sarah and her elderly grandfather who used to be a professional rider in France. Sarah adores her horse and works hard to learn the moves in 'Airs above the ground' - something I had not really heard of, other than when I read Mary Stewart's novel of that name some years ago.

Just as I was beginning to feel that I had the hang of both plotlines, and was getting to know the people, a crisis hits Sarah's life. She's quite a self-reliant person and determined to look after her beloved horse Boo - but eventually life (and social services) catch up with her. Sarah's path crosses Natasha's and the stories then start to intertwine.

As well as the overt themes of hard work and following one's dreams, this book covers contemporary topics such as fostering and adoption, theft and other petty crimes, teenage secrecy, the pain of ending a marriage, and the importance of parents and guardians listening to their children. These are clearly expressed without being soap boxes, and in some cases were quite thought-provoking.

The writing is excellent, the characterisation believable - at least, I found myself believing in the people while I read, and very much warming to Sarah. There were a couple of scenes where I was holding my breath in suspense, one or two moments when (unexpectedly) I almost chuckled aloud, and towards the end I had tears in my eyes more than once. I started this by reading just a chapter or two before going to sleep; by the time I was two-thirds of the way through, I could hardly bear to put it down.

Perhaps the ending is a little contrived, ending all the threads neatly in a happy-ever-after way; but by that stage I didn't mind at al. It's how I hoped it would end, and concluded everything in an ideal way. I do like it when novels finish positively.

Overall I thought this a wonderful book, and well worth persevering through the early chapters. Still in print in paperback in the UK, and also available in Kindle form.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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