Book review: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Friday, October 2, 2015 Permalink
by Diane Chamberlain

A lot of book bloggers I know (mainly in the US) RAVED about Diane Chamberlain’s Silent Sister, released in late 2014. I didn’t get a chance to read it but discovered Chamberlain had over two dozen novels to her name and many many fans. (That’s me living under my rock again!)

Surprisingly Naturally I learned my lesson and leapt at the chance to read and review her latest novel, Pretending to Dance.

The blurb

Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She and her husband live in San Diego, where they hope to soon adopt a baby. But the process terrifies her.

As the questions and background checks come one after another, Molly worries that the truth she’s kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. She ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved: Her mother, the woman who raised her and who Molly says is dead but is very much alive. Her birth mother, whose mysterious presence raised so many issues. The father she adored, whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison Ridge.

Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a future filled with promise, she discovers that even she doesn’t know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.

pretending to dance

My thoughts

The book alternates between 14yr old Molly in the summer of 1990 and 38yr old Molly as she and Aidan prepare to adopt. It’s the fact that it’s an open adoption that scares Molly. It potentially means the child will have a relationship with its birth mother and Molly’s own personal (catastrophic) experience is etched into her mind.

There was so much to love about this book, but for me it boiled down to the relationship Molly had with her father, Graham—a psychologist with several books about ‘pretend therapy’ under his belt. Molly adores her father and I was extremely touched by the respectful and patiently loving way in which he dealt with her. He expects a lot from her but remains conscious of her age and what she’s able to process.

I’m not sure if this is too much of a spoiler, but Graham has MS. He can no longer move his body but he’s Molly’s world and to her he remains unchanged and dearly beloved.

The book’s well-written and paced, as we journey between teenage and adult Molly. That summer is a poignant one for teenage Molly as she falls in love for the first time; and its events are playing on adult Molly’s mind as she prepares for motherhood.

It’s a book about friendships and family; about love and loss. It’s a book about secrets, but more importantly it’s a book about regret and I *may* have sobbed through several of the final chapters.

It’s a lovely read and one YOU won’t regret.

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain is published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and available now.

  • Emma
    October 3, 2015

    I love Diane Chamberlain and will absolutely be reading this, more so now with your review!

  • Rita @ View From My Home
    October 3, 2015

    I have been reading Diane Chamberlain since the 90’s! Of course off and on, and some of the older books might seem dated if read now, but I do always enjoy her stories. Glad you finally found her 🙂

  • Kathryn
    October 3, 2015

    Happy to hear you enjoyed it. Yes some sobbable moments in it! I have quite a few of hers unread because only came to her books in about the last year.

    • Debbish
      October 3, 2015

      Yes, it’d be good to catch up on a few Kathryn!

  • Teddyree
    October 4, 2015

    yay glad to hear you loved it Deb. Now get your hands on The Midwife’s Confession, it’s also a fantastic read.

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2015

      Thanks Teddyree… will keep an eye out!

  • Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog
    October 4, 2015

    Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I have liked the other books I have read from her and I plan to pick this one up too. Great review!

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2015

      I’d heard great things Grace so was keen to read her work and will definitely be searching out more.

  • Harvee
    October 4, 2015

    I may be the only book blogger I know who doesn’t have this book. Y our review makes me want to read it now!

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2015

      Do if you can Harvee! It was the first of hers I’d read and I very much enjoyed it. ‘Twas Laden with melancholy.

  • Donna
    March 10, 2020

    i started to read the book–our book club voted on it but I stopped and slammed it shut when it got to the part where she and a friend are going to spend the night together. I do not need to read the garbage that followed and many of the women in the group also feel that way. we do not need to know. the flipping back and forth seems to be popular these days but not with most readers….how about doing two sections…the early part of life and the latter. enough not to finish the book. I may pick it up again and just read about the San Diego part of her life but many of us have decided that parts could have been left out. started out well but I did not see a need for the ‘sex education’ part.

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