What I Just Read: D.S. Marquis' Book Review of Take A Bow by Beatrice Sylvie
I’m a ballet fan, and the book cover of the novel, Take a Bow by Beatrice Sylvie was love at first sight for me because of the male ballet dancer on the front. However, I learned on page one, that the book is so much more than ballet.
Take A Bow is a reflection of life in the face of challenge, personified. This book took me behind the living breathing art of dancing, inside the mind and soul of everyone when their life as they know it, is no more.
This novel with its strong man vs. man conflict took me on a journey from self-scrutiny and sabotage to self-acceptance and love. In chapter one my senses were filled with the sights and sounds of the hospital, where Adam Spencer, the protagonist’s story opens. Outside the hospital, the book took me to the dance studio, a bar, inside small flats, the Stage of London’s Royal ballet in Adam’s memories, the streets of London, the park and a Gala at Royal Albert Hall.
I loved the supporting characters and their suitable dialogue. They all had strong believable voices. I especially loved Maxwell, a giant of a man, Adam’s physical therapist, whose encouraging dialogue and role in the story brought Adam and me to tears. “A miracle”, his mother calls the protagonist, which had me caring about Adam through maternal eyes in chapter one.
Strong expressive figurative language runs through this book and brought me inside the protagonist’s internal struggles so that I felt what he felt when he felt it. I love the way Sylvie personifies solitude, emptiness, and addiction as a woman, lover, companion and friend. On page 112, I was totally absorbed in Adam’s mind in the following passage, “Emptiness brings back Solitude, my new partner. I met her at the hospital, and we were on and off for a while, as with many of my previous flirtations, not looking for a romance story nor to settle down. But now it seems to be working between us, because she has moved in with me permanently. Every day, she snuggles up to me and whispers in my ear to stay on the sofa.” And on page 168, Sylvie personifies wine, “Every night I drink more to forget forgetting that Bacchus does not comfort me. He only comforts my insecurities, transporting me by his all-mighty grace to my lonely deserts, my unhappy islands, all those places I am king. He has friended me as a man, made me king, only to turn me into a thirsty fish.”
As for structure, some very short chapters exemplify the theme that “Life is not all time, but rather made of moments.” (Sylvie p 198) It is these short chapters between one and three pages long, that mark the turning points for the protagonist. The word moment appears fifty times in the story. Adam is broken and trying to pick up the pieces of his life. And these small chapters are the puzzle pieces measured in moments that spiritually put Humpty Dumpty together again. To further support the idea that Adam is Humpty Dumpty, I read an allusion on page 193, where Adam is “curled up upon himself like an egg.”
Take A Bow is a strong human interest story with a satisfying ending. There’s so much to love about this book. I recommend it for anyone who likes rooting for the underdog or could use an encouraging voice to overcome life’s challenges or demons. It's an easy short read (212 pages) with characters whose lives jump off the page and who you will wish you knew in real life. This book inspired me not to focus on idealizing my losses, but rather to focus on welcoming my gains.” (Sylvie p. 198) Maybe it will inspire you too. ☮
Beatrice Sylvie is also the author of The Glass Boxes in which We Live.