The Dance Tree: A BBC Between the Covers book club pick
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Agnethe and the other side characters as also excellently sketched out, and all together Hargrave's writing portrays a vivid picture of the era and its people, with excellent use of imagery and language. Lisbeth has a tree, a tree that she calls the dancing tree, where she marks the death of her ten children. it will be the place where pivotal events in the book happen. A tree that marks lifes trials, but also happiness, solace and joy. The authors note adds to the actual historical events of the time and adds greatly to our understanding. A terrific book marking a time when women had no control over their own lives and had to suppress all their own wants and desires.
Together with these two elements, her personal experience, and the historical setting, KMH has designed a story in which love, family relationships, cultural conflicts between West and East, and LGBT+ concerns and claims all carry a weight. Nor is there any superfluous scene in ‘The Dancing Tree’; midway, I feared there just wasn’t going to be enough of this gorgeous book to enjoy. The timing is delicately paced and very well pitched, as Lisbet, and the women who surround her, move through revelations of who they truly are, and metamorphose into new-found selves; with character arc illustrated symbolically throughout by what happens to Lisbet’s bees: Strasbourg, 1518. In the midst of a blisteringly hot summer, a lone woman begins to dance in the city square. She dances for days without pause, and as she is joined by hundreds of others, the authorities declare an emergency: musicians will be brought in to play the Devil out of these women.Not only was I intrigued by the absolutely stunning book cover, I also adore historical fiction therefore I was incredibly excited when I received a copy of The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.
These two historical events underpin Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s book, especially the dancing plague in Strasbourg. The meteorite is relevant because our protagonist, Lisbet, was born as it crashed into a field and the mark it left on that field left its own mark on her family.Lisbet is a sympathetic and likeable character who has faced great losses, and Hargrave truly pulls the reader into her life and mind. It’s easy to draw lines from then to now in attitudes to the LGBT+ community, to immigrants, to class. We have come so far, and not nearly far enough. […] The world-at-large remains too often a hostile place for people who live, look, or love a different way. In The Dance Tree, I wanted to offer my characters a place to be safe and themselves. […] Lisbet is my attempt to offer a mirror to anyone else struggling to see themselves, and a window to those who might need the insight.' Meanwhile, on a farm near the city, pregnant Lisbet, together with husband Henne and mother-in-law Sophey, is tending the bees that provide her family's livelihood whilst at the same time longing for this pregnancy to go full-term and not end prematurely as her previous twelve pregnancies have. Then Lisbet's life is disrupted by the arrival of Henne's sister, Nethe, who has been away in a mountain retreat for seven years for a 'crime' that no-one will speak of. As the family dynamic ebbs and flows, Lisbet finds herself increasingly drawn to her best friend, Ida, who has the misfortune to be married to a vindictive member of the local Council and who believes he is doing God's work, no matter how harsh his actions are. But Ida has a secret that even best friend Lisbet does not know - and, when revealed, puts Lisbet's family in jeopardy....