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What I just read: A Dance For Emilia Book Review

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  • Amy Harlib
    ... $14.95, ... and ... famous) ... Millamont ... leaps, ... has ... combined ... make ... a ... as ... new ... of ... manages ... intense ... eerie ... ghost
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 19, 2000
      > Thanks for letting me share this review soon to be posted at various
      > websites for which I write regularly. Amy
      > aharlib@...
      > A Dance For Emilia by Peter S. Beagle (Roc/Penguin, NY, Oct. 2000,
      > small format hardcover, ISBN#: 0-451-45800-1).
      > American fantasy writer Peter S. Beagle has only published 6 books in the
      > last 30 some odd years, yet each was a gem, and two: 'The Last Unicorn'
      > 'A Fine and Private Place' are considered bonafide classics of fantastic
      > fiction. His most recent (after Tamsin, 1999), returns to the 'gentle'
      > ghost story form of 'A Fine and Private Place' and is a sweet and poignant
      > examination of dreams and the afterlife set in contemporary Manhattan.
      > The story is narrated by Jake Holtz, a 'working stiff' actor (nobody
      > who is confronted with the profound when the spirit of his best friend who
      > died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart failure---failed dancer turned art
      > critic Sam Kagan---possesses the body of his female Abyssinian cat
      > two years after Sam's death. When the cat suddenly starts performing
      > twirls and acrobatic antics once impossible for his less supple human body
      > and starts 'speaking' in a sort of telepathic voice, Jake and Sam's most
      > recent lover Emilia Rossi (a local NJ newspaper reporter) with whom Jake
      > formed a platonic friendship, are convinced that the power of their
      > grief and love has proved strong enough to bring Sam back to them in
      > Millamont's body. Yet, despite the human presence in the cat body,
      > Sam/Millamont retains very amusing feline behaviors!
      > Jake's narrative voice smoothly transitions from past to present as
      > flashbacks recall Jake's friendship with Sam, the two of them sharing a
      > passion for the performing arts and an understanding of the struggle to
      > dreams come true. With concision and lyrical grace, Jake's prose conveys
      > welter of convincing detail about the minutiae of adult life and feelings
      > the two friends pursued demanding careers on opposite coasts---Sam writing
      > for arts magazines and Jake taking acting jobs wherever he can, mostly in
      > California, sometimes in NY and elsewhere---yet their relationship stayed
      > closer than ever. When Sam's unexpected death leaves Jake and Emilia
      > devastated, their shared mourning and love for Sam forges the bond of a
      > friendship, and since Emilia inherited Millamont, Sam's cat---the miracle
      > Sam returning to 'haunt' the feline's body somehow seems inevitable. But
      > some miracles do not last forever, or do they?
      > 'A Dance for Emilia', really a novella in a small format hardcover,
      > to pack into 87 pages, a full length novel's worth of character-driven,
      > vividly detailed story rich in heartfelt musings on love, longing and the
      > power of bonds between people, all painlessly conveyed through Jake's
      > sobering reflections and witty dialogue. The book's combination of
      > emotions, colorful descriptions of people and places, permeated throughout
      > with an oddly poignant yet beautiful mood, makes the inclusion of the
      > and the uncanny convincing, especially at the tale's bittersweet yet
      > satisfying conclusion. This charmingly unconventional example of the
      > story subgenre of fantasy is perfect as a gift to oneself and especially
      > a special friend, for Beagle offers not only an entertaining, brief,
      > supernaturally-tinged yarn, but also something more: "Not facts, but the
      > accuracy under and around and beyond facts. Not a recital of events---not
      > even honesty---but truth". 'A Dance For Emilia' is a book for everyone!
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