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on 25 January 2009
When you read any work of fiction by a well known public figure you have to work a little harder on the 'suspension of disbelief'. I found the first few chapters, particularly the introduction of the sex scenes quite difficult to read for this reason. It felt a bit like being at school and reading an erotic passage written by your English teacher. It is a credit to Bragg's skill that I was soon able to forget such associations and became compelled by the drama he skilfully creates. A few things didn't quite work for me. I found the shifting narrative perspectives a little disorientating. There are effectively three voices contained inside one and it is sometimes difficult to work out whether we are reading a letter written in the present or if it is part of the broader letter which makes up the book. That aside Bragg's depiction of a middle-aged man, plodding routinely through his life and then suddenly, shatteringly awoken as if from a dream, by a young, vibrant woman is wonderfully constructed and developed. His hero (or anti-hero) is entirely believable, you feel every contrasting emotion with him and the object of his affections, Bernadette, is one of the most striking, life-affirming characters I have encountered for some time. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has ever experienced the pleasure, both physical and emotional and the accompanying pain, of love.
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on 16 October 1999
I have read this book time and time again and have never tired of it. Melvyn Braggs description of the thoughts and feelings of a retired manager bank manager, whose life has been one of respectability until he falls in love with a young Irish girl are wonderful. His obsession with the girl, Bernadette, leads him to act like a love torn teeenager himself. The story is told as a diary that he writes recording all his thoughts and deeds and the letters that they send to each other. The story is a moving evocation of two people, far removed from each other in terms of age and background, who fall in love. It describes the difficulty that they have in trying to keep their love a secret, knowing that they were 'laying a serpent seedbed of gossip which would spring up armed and oppose both of us', of the 'civil war between head and heart' as he tries to understand why he loves her. The story goes through the full circle of the relationship - of the lust when they first meet, the contentment with each other, the damage of jealousy. It is an erotic, moving book - sensual and sexual -you feel both sympathy and resepect for both charactors.
This is, i believe Melvyn Bragg at his best.
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on 22 November 2002
I read this book when it first came out in 1990, twelve years on, it still has not lost its power to convey powerful emotions to me through the sheer power of its prose and Melvyn Bragg's beautiful descriptions of the English Lakes district.
'A Time To Dance' chronicles the love affair in 1989 England between a retired 54 year old bank manager (of whom we never know his name) and 18 year old school-leaver Bernadette Kennedy who is from the 'wrong side of the tracks' socially. The book itself takes the form of a letter from the bank manager to Bernadette after the ending of their affair, chronicling their affair from beginning to end. Despite the fact that the bank manager is married, with an invalid wife, the affair itself is not presented as a cheap, sordid affair, purely based on sex. Rather, the affair is seen through the eyes of the bank manager who has obviously come to a crossroads in his life with retirement and stuck in a rut of his own making. Nowhere in the book at any stage is it suggested that the bank manager has consciously set out to seduce a younger woman. Rather than following the crude, disturbing path of 'Lolita', the book is an evocative description of the healing power of love and of how age ceases to be an issue when two people are drawn to each other by love.
Set in the beauty of the Cumbrian countryside, one cannot help but be moved by the beauty of the book as Melvyn Bragg thoroughly explores the lives of the book's characters, what led them to falling in love and the lives of those close to them who are affected by their love affair. The use of the bank manager as the book's narrator adds an excellent dose of realism to the book as the bank manager experiences the ecstasy and the pain of erotic love. Once read, this book will never be forgotten.
I write this review with the encouragement of my wonderful (and younger) partner, Amelia.
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on 7 December 2009
I found the first 100 pages a struggle, and as one reviewer said you could miss a couple of pages, and still not lose the thread of the story.
The last 100 pages were very moving, and somehow put the whole story into perspective. The bank manager, as thats how we know him, annoyed me with his self pitying, and his ability never to learn from his previous mistakes, but then thats what novel writing is all about to draw you into the narrative.
I felt Melvyn Bragg laboured sopme of the points, but he wrote evocatively of the Lake District, and I suppose how a 54 year old might feel about being besotted by a 18 year old.
A good read, that once into was difficult to put down.
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on 17 August 2010
Once again (yawn) we have a story of a respectable, middle-aged man besotted by a brilliant school-leaver. However nowhere in her conversation are we shown any indication of her superior intelligence; we just have to believe it because that's what we are told.
Bragg makes good use of his Thesaurus in the many soft porn scenes (pummelling, thrusting, hitting, pounding, crushing). I have a sneaking admiration for a 54 year old man with th competence to continuously satisfy an indefatigable teenager (and this before the little blue pill was available). However I was slightly dismayed that he didn't have a heart attack in the process...
Like Humbert our hero endows his peevish lover with money (which she'll probably hand over to her obnoxious mother).
In a word: a disappointment.
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on 18 December 2013
I purchased this book in paperback when it first came out, and watched the TV drama. Got it again to see if it still held the same drama, and was glad to add to the collection.
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on 18 October 2000
On the lines of a Humbert Humbert in Cumbria, this book manages to evoke emotions even after the 100th time you have read it. For those that have read Nabokov's "Lolita", I must warm that the only similarity these 2 books have in common is the age difference of the opposite sexes involved. Whereas Nabokov takes love into a crude, maniacal level, Bragg softens the tone to crude and obsessive and makes all ( like me) that have experienced an "ageless" love, you will find warmth in the main characters words. To those that havent gone through such life changing experiences, you will learn to think like "us" and forget the language of age, making love timelees, ageless and good. I must correct myself; if even you have loved or been in love, this book will scream out at you and show you how beautiful (and ugly) love can be. It will make you see yourself in love.
i havent read any of Melvyn Braggs other books, but its made me love him, love Cumbria (although i've never been there), and it has made me forget about ageism. It has made me want to keep away from being put out to pasture at 50, it has made being old ok. It has made too much for me, so i must read it again.
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on 13 April 2003
This is a deeply profound story of love and passion. It has an emotional honesty that is rarely found and an acute awareness of all the aspects relating to love. I found the story of the retired Bank Manager and his teenage venus so thoroughly engrossing that I could not put this book down. Melvyn Bragg in no way allows the age difference of these two characters to become anything more than a beautiful alliance. You feel for this mis-matched couple, you want desperately for their love to continue, to remain intense, for love to conquer all. And they have much to overcome.
This story tells of a love we hope will come our way, sometime in our life, but very rarely does. And for those who have yet to find such a love, it will reveal the depth of emotion you have yet to experience.
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on 5 December 2016
I have read this book before, so really didn't want to buy a new copy. This is one of the best novels I've ever read, a love story, not at all sleazy, but a deep love of the first kind. Get some tissues!
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on 23 July 2015
I first read this book on it's publication back in 1990 and bought it again out of curiosity to find out if I remembered correctly.
My perspective has changed of course, from being not much older than love interest Bernadette to nearly as old as the unnamed narrator, and yet I remember correctly how self obsessed and small minded the narrator was, forced out of his stuffy straight jacket and into First Love (what would his wife Angela think if she had known given all those years they were together?)
I don't think it was love.I think he approached it with the mechanical, heartless idea of love that someone as mathematically minded could,overreacting to the point of parody because that was what Love is.
I think if Bernadette had been outside by his car waiting he would have driven away with her and it would have all gone well for a bit and then he would have started stifling her, like he did with Angela, laying down pointless rules in his petty dictatorship. And what if she fell pregnant again? The slim wasp waisted figure would be replaced with a pasty, fat, vomiting changeling shuffling about in slippers and housecoat and he would have felt cheated because she was Real and not an Ideal.
Can you imagine him holding her hair back while she is sick?
One more thing : Bernadette was an Ideal, a fantasy, because no eighteen year old acts so mature. She played the adult when it was his job. She said as much. In real life, she would be drunk dialling his home and sending photos of herself to Angela and saying, "look at this, what have you got to offer?" And reminding him exactly whom was the betrayer in the relationship after slashing the tires on his car.
Eighteen year olds are not finished off mentally, massive balls of emotion untempered by maturity and have you looking over both shoulders thinking, "what is she going to do next?" While hanging on and trying to use the alien language of reason on them. Believe me, I know.
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