Monday, 16 May 2022

The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave


Pages: 304

Publisher: Picador

Released: 12th May 2022

In Strasbourg, in the boiling hot summer of 1518, a plague strikes the women of the city. First it is just one – a lone figure, dancing in the main square – but she is joined by more and more and the city authorities declare an emergency. Musicians will be brought in. The devil will be danced out of these women.

Just beyond the city’s limits, pregnant Lisbet lives with her mother-in-law and husband, tending the bees that are their livelihood. Her best friend Ida visits regularly and Lisbet is so looking forward to sharing life and motherhood with her. And then, just as the first woman begins to dance in the city, Lisbet’s sister-in-law Nethe returns from six years’ penance in the mountains for an unknown crime. No one – not even Ida – will tell Lisbet what Nethe did all those years ago, and Nethe herself will not speak a word about it.

It is the beginning of a few weeks that will change everything for Lisbet – her understanding of what it is to love and be loved, and her determination to survive at all costs for the baby she is carrying. Lisbet and Nethe and Ida soon find themselves pushing at the boundaries of their existence – but they’re dancing to a dangerous tune . . .

What I Have to Say 

I liked this book but it didn't blow me away. It was a calm read for me. I wasn't desperate to find out what happened next, but I was interested enough in the characters and their stories to want to know how the story progressed. I really liked Nethe's character and I liked Lisbet's perspective and her relationship with the bees. 

I guessed very quickly what Nethe's "sin" was and was happy with the way it was revealed and the hints that were given along the way. I didn't feel cheated because I guessed it at all. It worked well with the theme of rebelling against the constraints of a very Christian society. 

I do wish there'd been a bit more lightness and hope at the end though. It was not a completely unhappy ending but it felt very futile and the characters seemed to have lost so much. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Picador for providing me this copy for review. 

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