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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 13 September 2009
A powerful and elegaic novel about dance, identity, absence and mental health. It was wondrous to read and moved very comfortable between decades and continents. Although it's about a dance troupe that flourished briefly at the end of the 1960s, that doesn't really do it justice. It's much more about, to borrow tht title of a very different novel, the inheritance of loss. Men don't come out of this too well - they are fecklees, talented but brittle and flawed. Yet the male charcaters are the more memorable. I liked above all the very strong sense of place - of Jamaica, and more so of Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove and the Grand Union Canal. AW
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on 29 June 2010
Evans' second novel follows two distinct (but linked) narratives, which are sparked by the experiences of immigrants to England (or, more specifically, London) who find themselves united, for a time at least, by a love of dancing. In the first, a young man who never knew his father searches for anything that can connect them and so tracks down any surviving witnesses to the Midnight Ballet that his father led. In the second strand we see his father as he takes over the group, leads it to fame and then the consequences of his striving for greatness.

Don't let the word `ballet' put you off - this is a novel about ordinary people using art to express themselves. Evans' deceptively easy-going prose wears its themes lightly at times, but when things fall apart she is not afraid to show the consequences, or to follow those themes through. It's a novel that questions the right of the artist to be consumed with their art at the price of their relationships with their partners and children, and also the effect living with such focus has on the artist themself.

But equally, this is not a depressing novel. Evans is skilled at picking out small moments of absurdity in real life and at creating vivid characters who are as eccentric as only real people can be (but never sending them up).

'26a' was an accomplished first novel. 'The Wonder' proves its success was no fluke.
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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Wonder tells the story of Lucas, who is stuck living on a houseboat with his sister, and not going anywhere fast, both literally and figuratively. He's drifting through life without much purpose until he decides to find out more about his parents - his mother Carla who died when he was a baby and his father Antoney, the Jamaican dancer who seems to have vanished. Lucas starts digging into the past and finds out more about the Midnight Ballet, a dance collective his parents were part of, and gradually their stories unfold, along with an eclectic cast of dancers and musicians and tales of fame, love, betrayal and mental illness.

I loved 26a and was really looking forward to reading The Wonder, the second novel by Diana Evans. The cover is great, the reviews seem to have been fantastic, and her descriptive writing is lyrical and beautiful, so I thought I would be in for a huge treat. Unfortunately, this novel didn't quite do it for me - I found the plot was slow-moving, I didn't particularly like or care about any of the characters and the ending felt very rushed. There are some lovely colourful dance scenes, particularly when Antoney joins the Midnight Ballet, but overall, this was for me a frustrating read.
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on 18 June 2010
Language, it leaps and soars like dance itself in Evans' hands. She can fly from Notting Hill in the Sixties to the place of today of coffee shops and shoe stores. Through these places she captures something not simply essential of London itself, but masculinity and that fragile nature of male-ness, of men and creativity, of men who dance, of men who come from elsewhere and long to be, of men who long for fathers. Her first book felt like a story about women and family, girls. This is a picture into what it means to be a black man in London, to long and dance and leap and to be crushed under mental illness. Her ability to capture the black experience and to take it from being something general, something you can call "the black experience" to something specific and real in her characters is one of the great powers of her writing. It gives her the same quality that makes The Wire or Edward P Jones great, with characters who are complex versus stereotypes. So often in literature, particularly where race is concerned, all we're left with are the cliches. She has none, just the sadness and longing of Anthony and of Lucas, his son, and the mystery at the heart of their relationship.
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on 18 June 2010
A beautiful evocative tale set in the world of dance, that resonates long after you've finished reading. The main characters - father and son are wonderful drawn, particularly their mental fragility, as they battle their demons and desires. The use of language is haunting and deft. There is a great sense of place and time that transports you to 50s Jamaica, 60s Portobello road and back to the present. Quite simply a must read.
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VINE VOICEon 4 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I find this a difficult review to write as I only completed reading the book on my second attempt. It is a tale of dance. It is the tale about Lucas searching for information about his father Antoney who formed the dance troupe Midnight Ballet. It is the tale of Antoney who wants to find out about his father Mr Rogers. The story s based around the Gand Union Canal, Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove in London and Jamaica. Although the tale concentrates on dance with many great names mentioned it also deals with relationships . I found the changing time span difficult. The book was well written and some of the characters well described. I could picture both Lucas and Antoney well and feel some sympathy for them but others such as Oscar and Florence seemed unreal. The plight of immigrants to London is well described and made me shudder at times. The subject I found boring and the plot lacked interest. I may be being too harsh as I really have little interest in the history of dance. Students of dance may find it interesting
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A novel about identity and dance, 'The Wonder' is set partly in contemporary and partly in 1970s London. In the present day story, Lucas, a 25-year-old drifter living on a houseboat with (and still sharing a bed with) his older sister Denise, a florist, begins to feel a sense of purpose when he decides to find out more about his mysterious parents, neither of whom he knew (his mother Carla died when he was a baby, his father Antoney mysteriously disappeared, and it was believed he'd returned to his native Jamaica). Gradually, Lucas uncovers an intriguing story, learning how his father was a gifted choreographer and dancer who formed a group called Midnight Ballet, who enjoyed a brief and considerable success. Lucas's story (which actually takes up relatively little space in the book) is interspersed with much longer sections telling the story of Antoney and Carla, of Antoney's arrival from Jamaica, his training as a dancer, his forming Midnight Ballet with Carla and a group of other talented young dancers, and the inevitable problems the group ran into as Antoney discovered fame, and with it drink, drugs and attractive women other than his wife. There is some wonderful writing about dance in the book (Evans is a former dancer) and I much enjoyed the descriptions of the work of Midnight Ballet, and of their travels, including the quite splendidly surreal scene (worthy of Ingmar Bergman) in which a mysterious Danish countess decides to host an extravagant wedding for Antoney and Carla. I also enjoyed very much the descriptions of London - of Notting Hill, Portobello Road and the Grand Union Canal. Unfortunately, I thought the present-day story was very anaemic (Lucas was a sort of 'non-character' and Denise only really seemed to come to life when she was complaining about him) and found Antoney an increasingly obnoxious egotist. The characters I liked were Carla and Bluey (if Evans had spent more time on them she could have created a really good tragic romance) and some of the other members of Midnight Ballet, all of whom I'd liked to know more about, and also Carla's fierce Welsh mother Toreth. Having got so fond of Carla, I found her death (not a spoiler as we learn in the first couple of pages of the book) rather a cop-out; it all happened very fast and seemed to have been put in to bring the 1970s story to a dramatic finish. So, while I thought that Evans writes brilliantly on dance (and I hope she writes another novel involving dancers), my inability to care about most of her characters made this a somewhat frustrating reading experience.
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I tried long and hard to get into this book. I was really interested by the blurb, two siblings living on a house boat in London, one of them trying to find out more about their dead father who drowned, but ran a dance ensemble in 1960s. But it just didn't do it for me. I had difficulty relating to Lucas' present day story and whilst the scenes set in his father youth of the 50s and 60s was more interesting it just didn't capture my imagination.

I can see that someone with an interest in dance history however would find more in this book, there are interesting passages about some of the leaders of the post war modern dance movement such as Martha Graham. And it would also interest anyone who wanted to find out more about the history of the Windrush passengers and their early life in and around Notting Hill. But I felt that there was just too much being combined here and at times my attention span wavered too much.
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on 29 June 2010
I found The Wonder to be an intriguing read; the two parallel stories of son's in search of their fathers are beautifully wrought in arabesque intertwining between each other and across continents and generations. There is a sober balance between the mundane workaday existence of brother and sister Lucas and Denise and the more lyrical treatment of Antoney and Clara's story. I felt my interest sway in the pages taken over by sweeping descriptions of movement and sound in the sixties and seventies and gladly fell down to earth with a bump when back in gritty Noughties West London. A gripping series of stories with an ending worth waiting for. ME
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on 21 June 2010
This book is beautifully written - its like a prose poem at times, there are sentences that I had to stop and think over, they were so haunting. Evans has a very unique writing style. There is a sadness that runs through the plot - but also laughter, and the writing and the richness of the characters make it joyful to read if you like good books. On top of all this it's actually a page turner. What's in that locked drawer at the bottom of the old wardrobe? Thoroughly recommended.
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