A Dance in Time by Orna Ross

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A Dance in Time by Orna Ross

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Izzy Mulcahy is awaiting trial for the murder of her father when she starts to unravel her past and the history of the woman after whom she was named - Iseult Gonne. A superb story covering momentous historical events and family sorrows with equal skill. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 624 Date: September 2008
Publisher: Penguin Ireland
ISBN: 978-1844880539

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Izzy Mulcahy is probably the last person you would expect to commit murder, but in a few weeks she'll be on trial following her father's death. He was dying when she returned from America to look after him, but it seems that his end was hurried on a little. Life hasn't been easy for her and she escapes into her own past and that of Maud and Iseult Gonne. Izzy's father had named her 'Iseult' after Miss Gonne, whom he had met during the First World War. Izzy's obsessed with Iseult and in a strange way her life will echo, be a mirror image of her heroine's.

Maud Gonne, the English-born Irish revolutionary, best remembered for her friendship with the poet William Butler Yeats, gave birth to Iseult whilst in a relationship with the aristocratic (and married) Lucien Millevoye. Irish society was conservative about such matters and Iseult was referred to as Maud's niece rather than her daughter. Izzy's parentage provided her with a similar burden: her mother was unable to bear a child and Izzy was the result of her father's relationship with another woman. His wife accepted Izzy and brought her up as her own child but her death left her to her father's cruel mercies. In her teens she escaped to America much as Iseult before her had escaped to France and to England, only to return to Ireland as Izzy would.

It's only as Izzy unravels the strands of her life and Iseult's – sometimes intertwining, sometimes only tangential – that she realises that what she is going to do will impact terribly on the two people she loves most – her daughter, Star and Zach, the man she loves.

I don't often beg authors for a review copy of their book but having read Lovers' Hollow, Orna's debut novel, I made an exception for this book. Lovers' Hollow had a delicate balance of fact and fiction which kept me riveted from beginning to end and I was keen to see if Orna could maintain the standard with her next book. I gave Lovers' Hollow five stars and A Dance in Time deserves no less – in fact this book is altogether more skilful as the past and the present are seamlessly interwoven and once again the historical detail is excellent. There's a sense of an author whose research has been extensive but who has the confidence not to hit you with every fact that she's come across.

Maud and Iseult Gonne come off the page brilliantly, but what impressed me most was the life breathed into Willy – William Butler Yeats – and the likes of Ezra Pound, who was perhaps more and less likeable than I had imagined. There's a whole literary milieu who spring to life. For a while they overwhelmed the fictional characters for me, but gradually they came through. I thought at first that I would not warm to Izzy's daughter, Star – some of the footnotes which she's added to her mother's story are terse (or worse) – but the splendid and most unexpected ending put everything into place.

This isn't a short read, or even an easy read, but it is infinitely rewarding. Orna Ross has put a lot into this book and she expects effort from the reader. Pull the delicate strands of the relationships and see how the present mirrors the past, see how history repeats itself. It's superb.

I'd like to thank Orna for ensuring that I received a review copy.

If you haven't read Lovers' Hollow then you should. If A Dance in Time appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy Towards Another Summer by Janet Frame.

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Buy A Dance in Time by Orna Ross at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Dance in Time by Orna Ross at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Dance in Time by Orna Ross at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Dance in Time by Orna Ross at Amazon.com.


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