4 out of 4 stars
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The Dancing Barber by A.C. Michael starts with Mister Pushkin, the Russian blue pedigree cat and his master, the eccentric Klem, lying face down in a ditch filling and flowing with stinky water, and sweeps us through six acts, taking us to Europe and back to the war-scarred Russian. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars because of its perfectly toned elements and would strongly recommend it to readers that love historical, humorous and heartfelt novels.
One aspect that is impossible to miss, and is interlaced into this charming but harrowing story is the humor that is masterfully crafted and is reminiscent of John Grisham’s novels, but with bitter turns that make it even more endearing. Readers cannot help but be infused with lively characters, dialogues, and descriptions. Examples of this, and just to show the oddity of one of the twins and the beauty of the setting, AC Michael writes, “She turned to face the refreshing breeze blowing in from the distant Black Sea and wiggled her arms as if impersonating an enormous mutant chicken.”
I was laughing all through the historical fiction story, the sharp humor undercutting the truly ghastly happenings, perpetrated by Sterling, evenly sprinkled through the story. AC Michael’s ingenuity can be seen from the very first page as Klem and his pedigree cat interact and as he meets the anxious Halyna in the “Uki” club bar where the harsh landlords are hated and the head scarfs lead their flat-caps from the bars by their ears!
All the characters draw the attention of the reader, all from the oddly looking twin sisters and their odd uncle, as they take the “death train” to the airport; the authoritative, cruel but kind Tara and his stinging cane raining down on the bottoms of his students. You would have to read the story to fully understand the impact of the characters and the Ukrainian spirit fighting to retain and regain the freedom taken from them by the Soviet Union.
What I did not like about the story was the complexity of the plots and the method of its pursuit. I say this for the sake of light-readers who would get turned off by the prospect of having to employ much of their faculties to get through the plots and find the gem that lies at its center. Though the author did a masterful job of making it readable to many, I feel the author would have made it simpler and therefore incorporate all the readers.
I liked reading this novel so much that I went to look for the author’s other books. It changed and broadened my outlook of the European continent and its people, and also enriched my understanding of the human nature. AC Michael is undoubtedly one of my favorite writers of all time and his work is something to look out for. AC Michael took a hard subject and delivered optimally, and if you are reading this review, I would direct you to go for this book, it will change you!
The Dancing Barber
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