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Come Dance With Me (Novel, 2005)

From the jacket:

There is a strangeness about Christabel Alderton. Elias Newman can see it right away, as well he might. When Christabel was thirteen she was walking by the River Lea and some people in a cabin cruiser waved to her. The scene before her seemed to freeze like a photograph and she felt weird. A little later the boat blew up and killed everyone on board. Since then she's been troubled by a sort of second sight that works sometimes, but not always. Now, years later, she sings with a band called Mobile Mortuary who make their onstage entrance climbing out of body drawers. Death is much on her mind because the men in her life tend to die before their time and she's come to think she's bad luck. Elias Newman is a diabetologist who meets Christabel at a Royal Academy of Arts exhibition. Fascinated, he's keen to know her better. She's attracted to him but afraid of what might happen if she lets herself fall in love. Christabel and Elias are complicated people. Via Symbolist paintings and German ballads the narrative flows from the River Lea via a haunted woodland bog out to the crash of the Pacific surf on Kahakuloa Head in the Hawaiian Islands. And only in a Hoban novel could such an intensely involving love story embrace the redemptive power of ketchup bottles.

Type of work: 
Year of first publication: 
Original publisher: 
Bloomsbury Publishing

Review quotes: 

"The real humour in the book comes from its shifting perspective: as we hear first Christabel's voice, then Elias's, then an outsider's, we experience the joyful, bewildering excitement of seeing a complex situation from several angles. It's like looking into the eyes of a Picasso. Or peeking inside the head of one of our more intriguing authors. "
— Carrie O'Grady, The Guardian

"Time spent with Hoban is never wasted. As Christabel says of her own reading matter: 'I kept stopping and thinking my thoughts before going back to the page I was on.' This happens whenever I read Hoban, and I love him for stimulating my brain." 
— Lee Randall, Scotland on Sunday

"A grey February day can only be brightened by a new outing in Hoban-land. Here are the bats and the owls and the references to the work of Redon and so forth. Here is the humour, the fertile language and the inimitable kookiness by which all of Hoban's work is distinguished. Walk-on parts from previous characters, including Peter Diggs and Amaryllis ('Trust me, I'm a weirdo'), are like great bunches of flowers presented to faithful readers." 
— John de Falbe, The Spectator

"In other hands, Come Dance With Me could have been another creaky middle-aged love story: two battered souls looking for a harbour in a storm. As the lovers meet, flirt, spar with each other, their exchanges have a sophomorish freshness. 'Have you got a video of Vertigo?' asks 54-year-old Christabel. 'Yes,' admits 62-year-old Elias. 'Good. Let's go to your place and watch it.' How many twentysomethings enjoy such a sly, sexy courtship? As a narrative, it must be said, the novel lacks a certain focus. The protagonists are plausible enough, but are crowded out by superfluous minor characters. The reader yearns for some grand resolution, but has to make do with a neat, understated ending. But Hoban has never lost the quality for which he is rightly prized: his charm. This autumnal love story, with its undertow of quirkiness, is a reminder of a rare and idiosyncratic talent." 
— David Robson, The Telegraph

To the memory of Lillian Hoban

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