Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review: Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth

Title: Dancing on Knives
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Gothic Mystery/Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 2nd June 2014
Pages: 304
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.

My Thoughts:
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."

That was the ghost of her grandmother, Consuelo Sanchez, whose roast goose cooked with pears could make grown men tremble. ‘A stick of cinnamon is the secret,’ Consuelo would tell Sara, standing at the end of the bed, a hunched little figure in black, a shadow among shadows.


Oca Con Peras
source: solorecetas.com

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 pasiĆ³n.’"

"... Zarzuela should be an embarrassment of riches. It should be a gift from the cook to those that eat." 


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. 


Connect with Kate Forsyth

















Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs.


22 comments:

  1. The folk lore and food sound interesting too

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    1. I'd forgotten how gruesome the Little Mermaid fairytale actually is ...

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  2. New title to me but I love books with recipes in them! Oh who am I kididng, I love all foody books ;)

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    1. no recipes Sheila but the descriptions of Spanish food were so good I had to look up recipes haha

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  3. I hadn't heard of this book but it sounds great. I'll have to add it to my wishlist. That Oca Con Peras looks AMAZING. I'm not sure I've tried much Spanish cuisine but I'm intrigued.

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    1. I haven't cooked much Spanish food but I love eating it, the descriptions were so appealing I now want to :)

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  4. This sounds like a book I could really get into. I really enjoyed your review and plan to add this to my wishlist! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thanks Lisa, hope you enjoy it if you do get around to reading it. Highly recommend Kate's books!

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  5. I've heard of the author, but not this particular book... love the food angle!

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    1. Spanish culture in an Australian setting made for an interesting read, but it's really about a young woman finding herself!

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  6. Not sure this book is up my alley, but that fish stew certainly is! That looks delicious! Thanks for stopping by today.

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  7. thanks for the interesting review. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

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  8. Look what you did, now I am hungry ;)

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  9. I just might read this, intriguing, you have just whet my interest enough! I don't mind a little angst now and then.

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    1. hope you do Kathryn, awful dysfunctional family, I didn't like too many of them but gee I love Kate's writing!

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  10. I love tie-in with the herbs. The food sounds wonderful.

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    1. thanks for stopping by Beth, Consuelo was such an endearing character with her wisdom and cooking!

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