3 out of 4 stars
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Dancing Through Life by Shirley Read-Jahn is a memoir about a woman who led a very exciting life. Her childhood was very eventful because her family moved from England to Germany, then back to England when her parents separated. After having an out-of-body experience when she very sick, Shirley developed a zest for life. She traveled to many intriguing places like Turkey, Istanbul, and Greece. She momentarily lived in the Roman burial caves on Matala, Crete. Her memoir describes her adventures, romances, professions, and the incredible people she met while living her remarkable life.
Although this book is a memoir, it is reminiscent of an enjoyable historical novel. Anecdotes and dialogues made up most of the book. The events flowed naturally and were described as if they had just happened. This style of writing was enjoyable and easy to follow. It provided opportunities for little twists and surprises. This is what I liked the most about this book. Oftentimes, it seemed like I was reading a story and was waiting to see what would happen next. For instance, instead of simply stating the outcome of a botched blood donation experience, Shirley explained how she spotted the odd color of blood leaving her body and the terror she felt while screaming for the nurses. I held my breath while waiting to find out what would happen next.
Another thing I enjoyed was Shirley’s ability to capture events of historical significance through her writing. Passively, I learned a lot of history while reading this book. Once, Shirley was so taken with the beauty of the kudzu flowers in North Carolina that she foolishly tried to mail some seeds to her home in England. The kudzu invasion was of great significance in American history. Shirley was also part of the original group of hippies who lived in Matala’s caves in the 1960s. These caves are now a protected area.
Although Shirley’s adventures were exciting to read about, there was one aspect of the book that I disliked. Shirley bragged a great deal about celebrities. She described significant events that didn’t seem credible. For example, Shirley boasted about eating at the same restaurant as Beyoncé. She spoke zealously about the time her dad met Elvis Presley. Also, she was a tad bitter when Robert Redford declined to give her his autograph. In one instance, she claimed that one of her boyfriends was part of the first father and son aviation team to break the sound barrier. While living in the Matalan caves, she claimed that one guy there was actually the heir to the Hush Puppy fortune. Shirley and the others around her seemed to be constantly surrounded by rich and famous people. Moreover, she claimed that she and her sister traveled on the very last ship that visited Cuba before the government’s embargo. Events like these popped up too frequently in Shirley’s memoir. I began to question whether these events were added to make the book more interesting or to make Shirley seem more influential. By the end of the book, I felt rather disconnected from the author. For this reason, I deducted a star from the final rating and awarded it 3 out of 4 stars.
This book was edited fairly well. I would recommend this book to adult readers who like to read memoirs about glamorous people. Those who like to read about travel adventures, history, and family will also enjoy it. However, the book’s frequent ramblings about fame and popularity may put off some readers.
Dancing Through Life
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