4 out of 4 stars
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Dancing at Midnight: The Life of June Parker is a beautifully written novel by Rebecca Yelland. Without hesitation, I give it 4 out of 4 stars. I could find no flaws in the writing, and the story itself is gripping and immersive. I was sucked in completely and lost myself in the memories of June's life as she recounts her memories as a child and adult during the Great Depression. Yelland has incredibly vivid powers of description. The setting is split between two stories, the first following Carolyn Graves in the ‘present day’, which is in the 1990’s, and the second is the journals of her mother, June Parker, which were written in the 1940’s.
This book will break your heart. Honestly, (and I am not one to readily admit such things) I cried like a small child several times and certain scenes made me grin like an idiot. I became so emotionally invested in the characters that I genuinely felt pain when they felt suffered, and I became giddy when they were happy. It is very rare for me to make such a connection to characters in a book. This can only attest to the author’s masterful skills as a writer. I am a rape survivor and have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Chronic Depression, so when reading June’s descent into insanity as she lost herself in her grief, I knew only too well how she felt. I think this enhanced my experience, and tethered me to the events taking place. Yelland managed to tap into that well of emotional trauma that all humans at some point in their lives, on some level, have experienced.
The main character is June, who is a sweet, caring and innocent girl that suffers greatly throughout the course of the novel. Carolyn is her estranged daughter, who has returned to her childhood home to put her recently deceased mother’s affairs in order. She finds June’s journals and discovers many shocking and horrific things about her mother’s past, and Carolyn ultimately finds peace and reconciliation by the end of the book. Each character in this story is very unique. Alice, June’s best friend, and is selfless, independent, and cunning. June’s childhood sweetheart, Jimmy, is loyal, protective and loving. Alice’s fiancé, Tom, is a generous, polite and caring man. June and Alice are both the victims of abuse, and in June’s case, rape. Carolyn has an anxiety disorder. These deeper aspects of the characters give them an extremely human quality, making it easier to relate and connect with them.
The fact that the author covers such heart-wrenching subjects such as death, depression, grief, rape, abuse, hope, adoption, reconciliation, and healing just goes to show how fearless and determined she is in weaving a realistic and very human story. The ending is bittersweet, and left me with a profound feeling of awe at the journey Yelland allowed me to experience through June and Carolyn. It was so real! The characters were so believable, their stories so haunting that I could not help but feel as if the events actually happened. It was incredible. I really loved the realism and the characters. I tried very hard to find something I disliked about this book, but I can honestly say that I found nothing. I love everything about it.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, romance, and ‘slice of life’ genres. If you are sensitive to dark subjects such as abuse and rape, I advise you to tread carefully. However, I will say that the author does not go into extensive details during these scenes, so for those of us who have suffered from similar traumas, it is less agonizing than if she had been graphic. For that, I am very grateful, and it helped me to enjoy the book more. Dancing at Midnight is truly an amazing book, and the author should be nothing but proud of such a beautiful masterpiece.
Dancing at Midnight
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