Saturday, December 06, 2014

A Time to Dance, by Vadma Venkatraman

Veda loves dancing and has talent in the Indian art of Bharatanatyam dance.  Her strength, flexibility, and dogged determination have given her the ability to strike amazing and difficult poses demonstrating immense technical proficiency.  She wins competitions and is justifiably proud of the achievements which have come from years of hard work.

Then an accident injures her, leading to the amputation of one of her feet.  Her once-supportive dance instructor tells her that her career is over, but she refuses to give up.  Instead, she focuses on rebuilding her strength and learning to use a prosthetic foot and picks up a new teacher.  From this new teacher and the inspiration of another dancer, she discovers an entirely different approach to dance which is focused more on spirituality than form.

A beautiful story that sheds light on an unfamiliar world of Indian dance and spirituality.  Veda is a great ambassador for the reader, providing us with a sympathetic heroine with a heart of gold.  She is both strong and virtuous and, in Venkatraman's gentle hand, she both rewards us and is rewarded.

I was less taken by the writing itself.  Venkatraman chose to write the novel in a pithy broken form that claims to be free verse, but which felt more like half-finished ideas.  The writing lacks the coherency of prose or the beauty of poetry, leaving us with words that seek to be poignant in their minimalism but that just look sketchy and rough.

1 comment:

Alex Baugh said...

I also liked this book and felt the same way about both the character of Veda and the writing. I thought the writing in her other book Climbing the Stairs was much better. Still, they are great books that give a lot of information about India and Indian culture/tradition and, in the case of the first book, some Indian history.