Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On the Pointe of Payne by Natascha Holloway

Multi-generational sagas have been around for a long time.  From soap operas to novels, they seem to be a particularly popular form.  On the Pointe of Payne by Natascha Holloway is a one such saga about ballet dancers.  It begins with Faith, a driven and talented ballerina, and ends with her granddaughter following in her footsteps.  The ballet thread was woven well throughout the entire book and I was interested in the characters, but the book had some serious flaws that almost caused me to not finish it.
The book starts with an act of betrayal by Faith, who marries Owen, but is impregnated by another man.  Instead of coming clean, she pretends that the baby she carries belongs to Owen.  The daughter, Kate, grows up being strongly encouraged (read:  nearly forced) to become a famous ballerina.  What she is more interested in is Dan, the boy next door.  He becomes her first boyfriend and lover.  Kate’s dad doesn't like him though.  Why?  Because he had an affair with Dan’s mother and Dan could be his son.  Kate and Dan could be half-siblings!
At this point, I was flashing back to that 80’s TV movie called “Lace”.  Remember that?  Thick melodrama with big, poufy hair.  The phrase “Which one of you b**ches is my mother?” just kept running through my head.
This revelation causes Kate and Dan to break up.  He goes on to rock star status, while she has Dan’s baby—while not telling him.  (History definitely repeating itself.)  Kate gets hit by a car that prevents her from dancing again.  (It is worth noting that I have muddied up the timeline a little here.  He becomes a rock star after Kate avoids him in the hospital.)  In any case, they are apart for years.
In the last section of the book, Kate becomes a professional con artist to help her vision impaired daughter become a ballerina.  She is eventually reunited with Dan and all’s well that ends well.
I can handle the melodrama (and there was a lot of it), but there were some things about this book that nearly made me quit reading it.  The first—and the most irritating—was the narrative style.  There were great swaths of explanation of how characters felt and why they did what they did.  Instead of using dialogue to more the story along, Holloway tells me what people do—and often tells it in the past tense.  I felt as though I was listening to someone retell me a movie plot.  Even scenes that were crying out for dialogue got the “show, don’t tell” treatment.  Honestly, that almost made me quit reading after 20 minutes.
My other main problem with the book has to do with the passage of time.  The book was divided into sections.  In each section, the story would begin again with little reference to how much time had passed since the ending of the section before it.  Normally, this would not be a problem—particularly if only a few weeks had gone by.  But in one case, more than 10 years had passed!
I have other minor quibbles.  At one point, the members of Dan’s band are named.  However, none of them are called by their names (Phil is called Bax, Craig is called Archie).  Why not just name them the other names in the first place?  Also, the use of the word “whilst” was quite irritating.   Active voice, more dialogue, a better timeline, and some editing would have done this book a lot of good.  
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

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