Thursday, November 11, 2010

[Review] Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati

Title: Dancing in the Dark
Author: Robyn Bavati
Publication: 1st February 2010
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Source: PB, for review (Thanks PengAUS!)
Pages: 300
Series: Standalone
My Rating:

He tossed her into the air as if she were weightless, and just for a moment she seemed suspended there, defying gravity. I couldn't take my eyes off her. I knew what she was feeling. It was in every movement of every limb.

Here was a power I had never seen before, a kind of haunting loveliness I had never imagined. Seeing it made me long for something, I didn't know what . . .

Ditty was born to dance, but she was also born Jewish. When her strictly religious parents won't let her take ballet lessons, Ditty starts to dance in secret. But for how long can she keep her two worlds apart? And at what cost?

A dramatic and moving story about a girl who follows her dream, and finds herself questioning everything she believes in.

My thoughts: 

Dancing in the Dark is a lucid portrayal of a girl with a dream - to dance - that is forbidden due to her culture and heritage. She is Jewish, and her whole world has been built to the standard that this lifetime was only for preparation into the next, that you were only here to serve Hashem (God) and be virtuous and do as you're told. After discovering a TV in Sara's, Ditty's best friend, mum's room, she discovers DANCE. After being rejected permission to persue her new obsession, she takes it upon herself to learn dance in a school in private.

As a debut novel, Bavati has done an amazing job with Dancing in the Dark. While I found myself lose interest a few times - possibly due to a combination of pacing problems and just being tired whenever I got around to cracking it open again - it was a heartfelt and groundbreaking novel that swept me off my feet, and by the end of it I was left wanting more. I guess this leaves me to the point where I explain why I didn’t give this book a higher rating. I didn’t like the ending all that much. It was a resolution, but I wanted a bit more of a familial conclusion.
The novel consists of about 40 chapters, each usually not more than a few pages long, making it easier to pick up where I left off.

I had trouble connecting with many of Ditty's family, which is only to be expected given the extreme differences in customs. They believe in a whole system that I could not even begin to fathom, which made it quite frustrating to continue experiencing how un-cooperative Aunt Rivka and her parents were. However, among all that, Ditty has many allies: Sara, her awesome Jewish best friend who is for the most part supportive of her talents; Linda, her rebellious cousin who defies Jewish customs, much in the way of her clothing, and Miss Mitchell, Ditty's kind dance teacher. I don't want to say much about them, because then I'd have to spoil some of the plot, and I hate spoiling plot points. :(

Dancing in the Dark is inspiring in a way that is universal to all--anyone who has ever had dreams, anyone who has felt constricted within their religious centres, anyone who is interested in dance or even the concept of dance. Also, it was nice to read about Jewish community and customs (I had no idea Jewish families were usually so LARGE, and that arranged marriages still operated!); there is even a glossary at the back! It was all quite fascinating, and I can't wait to see what Bavati is planning for her next release!

'If they do [find out about my dancing in secret], they'll stop me from learning.'
'Maybe they won't,' said Miss Mitchell. 'Maybe you should give them a chance.'
'You don't understand. We're . . . They're very religious.'
'A lot of girls who dance here are religious.'
'Yes, but we're Jewish religious.'
'I know you are.'
'Well, that's different.'
'Why? Wouldn't God want you to use the talent He's given you?'
I didn't answer, though I'd often asked myself that very question.
(p. 176)

Live in Australia?
Fishpond | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

Live elsewhere?
Amazon | The Book Depository

I am in no way affiliated with the above sites, nor with Bavati or the publisher. I do not receive any money for reviewing or linking.

Learn more about Dancing in the Dark and read more reviews at Goodreads!

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