REVIEW: “House of Dance” by Beth Kephart
CHALLENGE(S): Beth Kephart Challenge
Finished 14 Jan 2010
Since I am both a dance-lover and a Kephart convert after Undercover, I was looking forward to reading this book, and it did not disappoint. From the front flap:
“Rosie and her mother coexist in the same house as near strangers. Since Rosie’s father abandoned them years ago, her mother has accomplished her own disappearing act, spending more time with her boss than with Rosie. Now faced with losing her grandfather too, Rosie begins to visit him every day, traveling across town to his house, where she helps him place the things that matter most to him “In Trust.” As Rosie learns her grandfather’s story, she discovers the role music and motion have played in it. But like colors, memories fade. When Rosie stumbles into the House of Dance, she finally finds a way to restore the source of her grandfather’s greatest joy.”
There is definitely a great deal of joy in this book; I loved the way Kephart described the dancers and their movements, and her use of colour was, as usual, quite striking – almost like a painting come to life. However, I have to admit that I didn’t like Dance as much as I did Undercover.
I think this is partly because it didn’t entirely seem to end. Throughout the book you get the sense that it’s building up to something, which turns out to be the party Rosie throws for her grandfather at the end of the book. But we never get to hear about it, never get to read about the culmination of Rosie’s dance classes, what happened with Nick, and how her grandfather reacted to her gifts. I guess I felt a little cheated; while Kephart does something similar in Undercover, there it provided an emotional high point that nicely rounded out the novel, whereas here it just feels like somebody tore the last chapter out of the book.
In addition, I felt the same problems with this novel as I had with Nothing But Ghosts. It was wispy and distant, more like walking through a dream than anything else, and I felt the characters did not ring true for me or seem as strongly outlined as those in Undercover. I think Kephart’s style is such that the beauty of the writing overwhelms both story and characters, and while for some plots this works well, those which require sufficient external grounding to carry the story suffer from this lack of substance.
Not a bad novel: well written and and an interesting plot, but ultimately unsatisfying.