Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Gothic Mystery/Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 2nd June 2014
Book Source: Random House Aust & NetGalley
Synopsis: At twenty, Sara is tormented by an inexplicable terror so profound she hasn't left her home in five years. Like the mermaid in the fairytale her Spanish grandmother once told her, Sara imagines she is Dancing on Knives, unable to speak. She feels suffocated by her family, especially her father – the famous artist Augusto Sanchez – whose volcanic passions dominate their lives.
Then one stormy night, her father does not come home. His body is found dangling from a cliff face. Astonishingly, he is still alive, but the mystery of his fall can only be solved by the revelation of long-held family secrets.
At once a suspenseful murder mystery and a lyrical love story, Dancing on Knives is about how family can constrict and liberate us, how art can be both joyous and destructive, and how strength can be found in the unlikeliest places.
A slightly different feel to other novels I've read by Kate Forsyth but it's an interesting journey to re-publication for the story first conceived 30 years ago by a then 16 year old Kate. Dancing on Knives is kind of languid and meandering and yet strangely compelling. And a testament to Kate's skill as a writer that I was fascinated whilst in the midst of so many unlikable characters.
Dancing on Knives is a novel of passion and family dynamics ... the severely dysfunctional Sanchez family. Twenty year old Sara Sanchez, suffocating under the weight of an egotistical, bullying father and loss and longing, so crippled by anxiety and panic attacks she hasn't left the family farm in 5 years.
I loved the strong sense of place (Narooma, a small town on the far south coast of NSW) and the importance of food, recipes passed down through generations ... descriptions literally making my mouth water, adding light and warmth to an otherwise dark tale. And how I adored Sara's grandmother Consuela Sanchez.
Sara inherited her grandmother's tarot cards, her prophetic 'knowing' and her recipe book. That was one of my favourite parts, I really enjoyed the descriptions and memories of that recipe book and I loved that Sara listened to her grandmother's wisdom, tapped into her inner strength and found a little peace and happiness.
Consuelo's recipes were all kept in a very thick old exercise book, bulging with odd bits of paper - old remedies, directions for making dandelion wine or rosemary shampoo, hand-scrawled notes on the secret properties of fruit and herbs - basil for enticing true love, rosemary for fertility, thyme for courage, apples for love and healing, figs to spell-bind love, sage for wisdom.
‘Thyme is best for courage,’ Consuelo told her. ‘Make a cup of thyme tea with honey, that’ll help make you brave. Or wear a sprig of it in your hair, so you can smell it."
Augusto always peppered his speech with Spanish when he cooked, although he had not set foot on Spanish soil since he was born. ‘The secret with zarzuela is the sweetness. Cinnamon, saffron, sweet paprika, bay leaves. Sweet and salty the zarzuela, like the sea, like pasión.’"
Zarzuela (Traditional Catalan Fish Stew)
Source: Cocina recetas
I liked the magical feel, references to the macabre Little Mermaid fairytale, the Spanish culture, the segue from present to past and back.
Augusto Sanchez, I loathed ... passionate, egotistical artist, self absorbed, bullying human being, quite frankly I thought he got what he deserved ... oops, I mean I couldn't find it in myself to care about his 'accident'. For that matter, I didn't really care much for the rest of Sara's family either lol.
Not my favourite of Kate Forsyth's, that honour goes to the The Wild Girl but as always, wonderful storytelling.