My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source: eARC courtesy of publisher
Dancing on Knives is rather atypical of Kate Forsyth’s books. Its contemporary setting in Australia and lack of the magical element may disappoint her fans of fantasy works. Fortunately, as a fan of Forsyth, my reading appetite is quite eclectic and I could appreciate the amazing effort she’s put into this baby. Whilst it was first birthed over 30 years ago, this novel has gone through a number of revisions (and was also previously published under different title) until the form it has achieved today.
This mystery novel is told from the perspective of twenty year old Sara, eldest daughter of the Sanchez family. It’s an interesting perspective noting her limitation / weakness however it was a lifting experience as Sara, in loving her family, slowly found her strength. The Sanchez family has weathered many troubling times and yet, there were love to be found in each other to sustain them through these hard times. With a focus on family and their secrets, this novel could easily have been a family saga (unfortunately, it’s a little short…).
What impressed me of this novel wasn’t the mystery itself but the whole aura of the novel and the number of things packed into 300 odd pages. The research itself must’ve been a colossal undertaking; mostly in reference to the Spanish culture of cookery & art. I must acknowledge my ignorance for both but I can’t help but be awed by the details that were included without being overwhelming.
The novel itself isn’t a ‘retelling’ of the tale in the strict sense as it was rather of Sara who identified herself with the fairytale mermaid her Spanish grandmother used to tell. This tragic tale combined with the stormy weather, the decrepit condition of the house, and the sinister circumstance of Augusto Sanchez’s accident gave the novel a very gothic atmosphere. Whilst the usual ‘magic’ element is missing, there are references to the supernatural which again lent force to the dark & eerie feelings of the story.
Fans of Kate Forsyth may found Dancing on Knives somewhat hard to swallow / enjoy especially for the fantasy-die-hards. I, however, loved the atmosphere, the well developed characters, and the Spanish flavour of this story. If you’re a fan of Kate Morton, I think you should give this particular work of Forsyth a chance.
Thank you, Random House Australia for copy of eARC via NetGalley