A Time to Dance: Melvyn Bragg
A most unlikely dance partner....
A middle aged bank manager who lives an emotionally stilted married life in a small English town suddenly falls passionately in love with a gorgeous teen. Instead of being a believable start to a tragi-comedy of unrequited love, the gorgeous teen falls deeply in love and is transfixed by the bank managers sexual prowess.
When reading, or watching a movie, my initial approach is always to "suspend disbelief" and try to fell the narrative as the creator intended. As a middle aged man, my suspenders were working overtime to maintain belief that in the books core proposition - that a teenager would fall passionately and deeply in love with such a man in such circumstances.
Bragg is most powerful when describing the chaos of mind and action that new emotions and a complete change in life focus cause in the manager. This form of love is a close analogue to insanity and usually associated with earlier life decades. In the case of our anti-hero, it seems that, having never felt passion, he lacks an experienced perspective. Additionally, a rational assessment of his life shows he has little to lose. Other passionate lovers have to try to balance the damage that they may cause to the fabric of relationships particularly with children, but also with a spouse as well as with the bank ! Our anti-hero has a distant relationship with both wife and daughter on the other side of the earth, and is nearing retirement with plenty of money. Licentiousness beckons !
For me the central issue in these love stories is nothing less than the meaning of life. The meaning of life changes dramatically over time for so many people due to all sorts of events. An "all consuming" love necessarily eclipses other meanings - such as other relationships - family, job, town, society..... Bragg superbly portrays this mind state and the intellectual self realisation and then justification that always follows it.
The (far less believable) mind of the teen is left as a mystery fuelling the dramatic tension until a letter of revelation right at the end of the book.
An ultimately satisfying story about the transformative effect of passion.
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