This beautifully written book deals movingly with grief and loss, without sentiment and with a delicate touch. The history of the heroine’s grief is revealed gradually and sensitively against a background of intriguing characters and an unusual environment. There is nothing missing from the conclusion yet one would like to know more about what happens next. And, without yearning for a sequel, one nevertheless hopes that Sylvia Colley will write more books!
Ask Me To Dance is the story of a woman's suffering, interestingly narrated and enhanced by the author's clever alternation between an external narrator, entrusted with the novel's narrative passages, and an internal narrator (Rose), whose expressiveness takes on a more lyrical timbre. The author's use of language is concise, lending little to rhetoric, although never at the expense of a consistent semantic richness. Throughout the narrative Rose passes from a condition of 'hypnosis' to one of furious wrath, before finally coming to her senses. Ask Me To Dance may thus, by some measure, be considered a Bildungsroman, in which a romantic conclusion would seem unnecessary, and which would perhaps even distract from its original message.
Brilliant reading of a woman's journey through grief and bereavement. The protagonist is Rose and it starts on a drive to a monastery where Rose is driving towards on recommendation of her Doctor, to see if she can find spiritual guidance and peace within herself. It turns out to be very different to what she had expected. I really enjoyed this book and how it was written. The story of the monks in this decaying monastery which is about to shut down and the few monks left to be transferred to another monastery is so very interesting. There is also humour running alongside the story. She does find emotional and spiritual release by the time she leaves. A great read.
Ask Me to Dance is an original and touching account of one woman's bereavement, the nature of which is only revealed to the reader gradually, and how she begins to find a way of looking forward through her short stay in a monastery that's about to close. Her interest in the small group of residents helps to start the healing process. Written in an unsentimental style to create the characters' feelings and evoke a lovely natural environment, Sylvia Colley impresses with a novel that tackles sensitively the difficult topic of death and its devastating consequences. Highly recommended.
A thought provoking and sensitive book for anyone who has been through such traumas. Comments on life in a religious institution will be familiar to anyone who has attended convents or monastic school.
Very much enjoyed reading this book about a woman trying to deal with bereavement. Well written characters, thought provoking but not depressing, and with humour too. Have already recommended it to friends.
Where to start describing this extraordinary book? It is a book that is impossible to categorise and very different to anything I have read recently, neither of which are negatives. I was drawn into the book from the beginning, held throughout and left thinking about it long after I finished it.
The protagonist is Rose, a woman in the grip of a grief that has driven her to the edge of madness. We meet her as she arrives at a monastery where her doctor has sent her to rest and recuperate but it soon becomes apparent that this may not be the right place for her to do that. The monastery is down at heel, on the verge of closing and populated by only a small group of Brothers who are struggling with their own internal and rather petty tensions which in turn infect Rose and disrupt her state of mind further.
The author does a fantastic job of describing the crumbling monastery and its wild and neglected grounds, complete with a graveyard full of deceased Brothers, and it gives the whole book an air of despair and, for me, a slight creeping menace which was the perfect backdrop to the mental disintegration within Rose and the decay of the relationships between the remaining Brothers. Rose has gone there for peace and seclusion and possibly spiritual guidance, but it is clear than none of these things are on offer for her here where the Brothers draw her into their issues rather than helping her with hers.
We learn about the events leading to Rose’s breakdown gradually through the course of the book, at the same time as more information is fed to us slowly about the different Brothers and the tensions between us. This approach for me, resulted in a slow build of tension and oppression with minimal actual action until the final explosive events – a very clever reflection of how the tensions and despair and feeling of unfairness and futility have built up in Rose. The book is written mostly in the first person through Rose’s eyes, which let us get further into her mindset and feel what she is feeling and seeing. I was infected with it and the feelings have lingered in me long after I closed the book.
If I had a small criticism, it was that I was left unsure of the relevance of one of the characters introduced, whom I had thought would play a more vital role but it is a small niggle in an otherwise startling book.
This book is clever, thought-provoking, evocative, surprising, difficult, menacing and insidious. It defies the trend towards shoehorning books into a genre, instead leaping outside the box. It is not a comfortable read but it is a true and worthwhile one.
This is a brilliant piece of writing. It documents a certain period in time which is filled with the detail and authenticity of monastery life. You believe you are experiencing at first hand the strictures and demands placed upon you. But also interwoven through this are the memory and grief associated with other times. A fascinating study which the reader will find difficulty to put down. There are no easy or obvious solutions to the dilemmas faced by the protagonist.