4 out of 4 stars
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The Dancing Barber is a historical fiction authored by AC Michael. It features the undulated life of its protagonist, Taras, who serves as an ordinary barber during the day and a disciplinarian ballet master at night. Taras is a Ukrainian Partisan who was one of the few fortunate who have been spared from The Great Famine and was able to escape the cruelties perpetrated by the Soviet Union led by Stalin in 1933. Thirty years later, Taras is found living a quiet life with his family in England and finally reaping the fruits of his hard work following the successful staging of Swan Lake. Yet, just when he thought the dream he longed to have for over three decades has finally come true, some people from his previous life suddenly re-appeared trying to bring back the horrifying past that he has already put to rest. It seems that being Ukranian is a curse that continue to haunt him as long as he is alive.
Towards the novel’s finale, the immense mystery behind a key character named Voloshin’s identity has been revealed. Voloshin is known as the “Peaceful Partisan” who is standing up with an inordinate courage to prove to the world that 1933’s Great Famine killing six million innocent Ukrainians was, undoubtedly, a form of genocide ordered by Stalin to eradicate his “Ukrainian Problem.” It turned out that Voloshin and Taras are one and the same person. All those years, although living his chosen life away from his homeland, Taras has silently been fighting for justice that he and the rest of his countrymen deserve disguising himself as Voloshin. As things are further complicated by this enormous revelation, will Taras be able to live the life of his dream in the end?
This novel is not only filled with thrill and mystery but is likewise stippled with humor that subverted each petrifying moment and kept the readers entertained all throughout. The readers’ interest only gets stronger as an intense and fast-paced story plot evolves. The book is divided into sections called Acts which somehow gives the readers a theatrical feel. Likewise, each Act contains a Biblical passage that also serves as the theme for that section. The characters are well-developed hence I find it easy to connect with them. Also, the setting and characters constantly switch in each chapter implying a multi-faceted story but no part of it was left hanging.
The author’s piercing sense of humor that transpired on almost all pages is truly extraordinary. Being able to laugh even during intense situations is what I like the most about the book. The author’s approach in maintaining the readers’ interest at a high level is very effective for me. Occasionally, reading historical events that mainly involve wars and cruelties is quite bland but the author has masterfully undercut such dreariness by injecting humor in between. Albeit, in some parts of the story, there are statements where filthiness is unbearable which may inflict undesirable reactions from other readers. Like for instance, spitting on a drink and offering it to someone for consumption. Another example is spitting phlegm on the palms then applying this on the hair as though it is a hair conditioner. On the other hand, there are sentences where the word “the” was redundantly used. As an example, “So the daughter, she should be the living with him.” Another one is, “I can stock this where the sun, it does not the shine.” Initially, these aspects of the story somehow distracted my concentration. But later on I realized these are all necessary in building up the concerned characters’ personality in the story. Also, I believe it’s another ingenious way used by the author to dissuade the monotony instinctive of a historical event.
The book is finely crafted except for only one typo error I noticed but this neither affected the book’s quality in general nor my focus on it. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars for the high level of amusement it offered me and for it being professionally written. Everyone who loves to read historical and humorous fictions will definitely enjoy this book.
The Dancing Barber
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