Ballroom by Alice Simpson
Lately I’ve been catching up on a lot of my reading. I always pack a book for press trips to read in flight, on the beach or by the pool, or to lull myself to sleep at the end of a long day. It’s a different routine than I have at home (I watch television in the evening). Ballroom is currently on my nightstand, ready to be devoured…but, first I have to finish the book that I’m currently reading. My bestie Ava from The Review Broads picked it up this past week, and here’s what she had to say about Alice Simpson’s newest novel…
Through the voices of the men and women who dance inside her prose, Simpson captures the entity of a life lived only in dreams and its polarity, the actual life that overcomes the sorrow of imagination. Redemptive, passionate and mesmerizing, Ballroom shuttles the passion, pain and erotic joy of the dance and the dancer with her characters.
It’s Manhattan in the later 1990s. The carapace of the Ballroom still takes in dancers on Sunday evening, although the building is literally falling apart with neglect. There are people who come here every Sunday night for many reasons: romance, love of ballroom dancing, addiction to the thought of finding the perfect partner, the pursuit of perfection, and life – or death. The Ballroom hovers over its Manhattan residence and sees them all.
Maria Rodriguez is young and beautiful. Her father is the superintendent of an older apartment building in Manhattan where he and Maria live. One of his tenants is old Harry Korn, 65, who has been entranced with the presence of Maria since she was a beautiful baby. Angel Morez is Maria’s dance partner at the Ballroom, and they are falling in love. But Maria has a secret. Every Friday night she lies to Angel and her father and goes up to Harry’s apartment for dance lessons. For Harry used to be a famous dancer and Maria wants to learn how to be the best dancer around. Maria tells neither her father nor Angel that she has been doing this since she was fourteen and now she is caught up in the like and Harry’s dream that Maria will be his wife.
Then there is Sarah Dreyfus, 40, with three marriages behind her already. Sarah lives in the f=dreamy world of film and film stars, and is a talented dancer, impeccably dressed and impressed with another dancer, the elegant and rich Gabe.
Gabriel Katz loves the perfection of ballroom steps as he is a perfectionist. He is married to a drunk, and lives in a fashionable Forest Hills. He is a gifted dancer, always looking for his mother on the Ballroom floor. His mother was his first dance partner.
Angel Morez defies his father’s plans for him, and wants to own his own dance studio with his beloved Maria Rodriguez – as soon as they both tell each other their shameful secrets.
Joseph never tells anyone his last name. He longs for Sarah to be his, but is too passive to move toward her on the Ballroom floor.
As Simpson undulates from one narrator to another, the pasts and demons of her Ballroom regulars’ takes on a life of its own, and their lives cross as they dance through dreams and life. In the Viennese waltz, the Peabody the quickstep, mambo, fox-trot and tango, the dancers move their lives toward tragedy and success.
Stunningly written in prose that tempos itself into the reader’s mind and heart; Ballroom is a winning read.