He chose me for my sadness, he told me; the challenge of it, of replacing the dead weight with life, my pallor with English rose. I know a project when I see one, he said, appraising my rib-caged flesh, my hollow eyes. With each button opening, a mans desire. When he was done, I was sure I had counted each ceiling tile twice, compartmentalised each shade of white and grey, the slight mould of green in the left corner, the opal spider’s web on the right, the light flicker. My leaden legs shaking slightly with the weight of him; his breath in my ear. I wanted to slice him, groin to neck, and back again. But I soothed myself, my girly wiles, count to ten, then back again, Just remember to smile.
My talented friend, Fiona Howe, kindly sent me a copy of her new novel SHE DANCED for me to review.
As a writer and musician, Fiona Howe has long been fascinated by the interplay between words and music. Her professional background is in film and television. Having worked initially in production and script editing at the BBC and ITV, then as a screenplay writer for a number of European networks, she founded her own production company Scenario Films for whom she has produced, and composed the music for, an award-nominated trilogy of feature films, DESIRE, DELIGHT and DELIRIUM. She also produces film training programme Babylon, now in its tenth annual edition. A classical pianist and flautist with a BA in English Literature, she is also a singer-songwriter, having released her début album MERMAID’S WORK in 2016.
You can find my review below! She Danced is available on Amazon in both paperback (£8.99) and kindle (£3.99).
“Wow. An evocative piece of genius filled with extremely intelligent writing. I was hooked from the start as the author delves straight into the world of Mia with all of her complexities as she collides with Tom, an equally complex, but difficult character. There are strong thematic links you have to unpick and unravel and the storyline makes you really think; the interplay between love and desire and infatuation (the problematic nature of lust), secrets and family tensions, all with music and the urge to create at the beating heart of the novel. This was a fantastic read, well written, with a strong, emotional story line and diverse characters who are unnervingly relatable. This book is sitting proudly on my bookshelf and highly recommended if you are searching for a new haunting and powerful read. I look forward to further works from the talented Fiona Howe- New favourite author!”
You can order at this link. Please find a book synopsis below:
SHE DANCED tells the story of a successful, happily married woman whose certainties are upended by a chance encounter with a young musician living rough on the streets. Mia apparently has it all. Attractive, happily married, a successful film producer in her own right. But on the night she wins an award for her husband’s controversial documentary, her path collides with someone who will change her life forever. Singer-songwriter Tom is lost for love, betrayed by the object of his desire, Cleopatra, a ravishing but whorish singer with ambitions that won’t let anyone get in her way. Goaded beyond endurance, Tom walks out of her life and onto the streets where he has been living rough for three months. Mia passes Tom playing his heart out, barefoot and bleeding amidst the evening crowds, and gives him money for shelter. It might just have been an act of charity. He’s young enough to be her son. She’s on a roll, the production company she’s built up for so many years with her husband Stephen has achieved its first major success, and impulsively she wants to share her good fortune. Perhaps it’s also an act of atonement for her feelings about her daughter Lottie, whom she has idolised and sacrificed so much of her career to bring up, and whose sexual ambiguity makes her uncomfortable, stirring up feelings she was unaware of having buried. Her unease is transferred onto the young homeless man, whom she offers a room in her house, touched by his playing and his mysterious circumstances. Her unorthodox rescue mission sparks hostility from both Stephen and Lottie, and after seeing Tom through a spell in hospital she secretly rents him a flat, making him the subject of a new music documentary. Tom is handsome but weak, a moth-to-the-flame even as he charms those around him, and somehow Mia is falling under his spell without admitting it to herself. However, she has reckoned without the unscrupulous methods of her ingenious daughter to keep them apart.Alternating Mia and Tom’s emotional perpectives, She Danced explores the simultaneously transcendent and debasing power of infatuation, and the struggle to create. It’s a London novel, straddling west and east, bringing two cities, two generations into collision, a deconstruction of the politics of marriage between work-partners, a mother-daughter story, of deceit, duplicity and desire in the digital age.
‘And in the end in wonderland we both went mad.’- T.S
It was that cheshire cat smile that did it
I was half in love, half afraid, I saw you through the looking glass
I would look at you like you were my favourite magic trick, a coin behind my ear, a tale on your tongue, how you held me close and licked your lips
We’re all mad here, you would say, your eyes crazed, a match between your sharpened teeth,
You could set yourself on fire and laugh, I am sure of it
But I was always too scared to tell you,
that I had seen madness,
but only in a boy from Pennsylvania
who didn’t know how to love me.
She was a lilac sky
She was a pink sky
Warm and giving
She was a yellow sky
bright and waiting
She was an orange sky
Bold and waning
She was a red sky
She was a black sky
Cruel and dreamy
She was a green sky
A Strange, strange beauty
She was a blue sky
Moody; held onto heartbreak like a trophy
I was everything,
a kalleidescope of colours, feelings, emotions
They never know if they are coming or going, Just
Watch the colours bleed atop this flesh of white,
Just watch as he runs as he says:
that girl is too much, that girl is too much.
I am a dream holiday
A winning lottery ticket
A pre-suicidal Marilyn
They say, being with me is like chasing a fantasy
I’m always almost certain the novelty will wear off
What a curse it is, to be the type of woman who comes afterwards
to men who have already seen the world.
When you know he will go back to where he started off all along,
When you leave for vacation you always come home.
Scarlett hair and skin so fair
He wondered how such beauty?
A raven dream
A sex fuelled scream
Such unaltered mutiny
A witchcraft smile
magic for a while
but she was stardust poisoned
Do not love a starlit witch
filled with lust depravity.
Spoken word Poem.
I think if you were a better man you could have loved me better, but maybe we were just the worst thing that could have happened to each other.
I knew our millennial love was over in dust, when we started to talk about us in the past tense, and face away from each other when undressing and in bed, when we both pretended to be asleep, You couldn’t hold eye contact when we made love but yours were no longer the arms I would run to if our house, our life, our world was burning down, my annoying habits were no longer endearing and you hated the sound of my laugh, how irritating you were to me too, the relief when I kept thinking thank fuck we didn’t get married or get that joint bank account or have that baby we talked about when we were young and had less frown lines when life felt light the way only two people who are in love can feel it, I wonder how we got here, if it was me or you, but I hate the way you shout at me, at nothing sometimes, you are not handsome to me anymore, just unkind, stagnant, I don’t think I am as beautiful as when you met me, as when you loved me, I think that it is ok to age I think it is ok to walk away from love I think it is brave to look at someone and say, I no longer love you, need you, want you, I think it is ok to grieve but remembering grief always makes the other person seem better than what they were, like a saint on a pedestal with a light shining on them from above, fuck, I hope you find someone unlike me, I hope she is polar opposite even, and brings the light back into your eyes, the smile back to your lips, I hope you test the waters before you spend the rest of your life with someone else, I hope love find you when you aren’t looking and I hope the next one lasts, I hope the next one lasts.
And you always had to remind me
as though you were not the one
My lungs in your hands. My shaking body,
begging you to stop squeezing.
Go on, tell me again,
tell me how much you love me.
Please check out my poem ‘The Italian Tree’ on Free Verse Revolution
The August heat came with love and chance
A melodic butterfly gasoir dance
And stolen kisses underneath the old tree
The sapling brought from Italy
The one which grew up with me
Ah, that strange, crooked tree
My mother loved to tell this story
How it could live for thousands of years
But would only ever bear fruit once
What a gift it would be, in this lifetime
How wonderful, if the universe, aligned
In chance, in beauty, in laughter
And like a bumblebee to lavender
That summer the fruit came
And so did you to me
Your mouth on my mouth
Under the Italian tree
Orange fruit, sweet,
Two love birds perched underneath.
Tina Rose is an English & Drama Graduate from Royal Holloway, University of London and a Masters graduate in English Literary Studies from Durham University. She is a Creative Writing teacher in a…
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