Improvising her Life’s Dance.

Book Review for “An Unchoreographed Life” by Jane Davis.

Summary: At six years old, Belinda Brabbage has amassed a wealth of wisdom and secret worries. She knows all the best hiding places in her Worlds End flat, how to zap monsters with her pig-shaped torch and that strangers will tempt you into their cars with offers of Fizzy Fish. Even so, it’s impossible to know how to behave when you don’t really understand who you are. Mummy doesn’t like to be plagued with questions about her family but, when she isn’t concentrating, she lets small nuggets slip, and Belinda collects them all, knowing they are pieces of a complicated jigsaw. Exhausted single mother Alison hasn’t been able to picture the future for some time. Struggling from day to day, the ultimatums she sets herself for turning her life around slip by. But there is one clock she cannot simply re-set. Deny it though she may, Belinda is growing up. Having stumbled across Alison’s portfolio that mapped her life as a prima ballerina, her daughter already has a clearer idea of who she once was. Soon she’ll be able to work out for herself who she is – and what she does for a living. With options running out, Alison travels to London’s suburbs to consult a blind clairvoyant, who transports her to a past she feels exiled from. However unlikely they sound, his visions of pelicans and bookshelves appear to herald change. A chance meeting with an affluent couple affords a glimpse of the life Alison desperately wants for her daughter. But can their offer of friendship be trusted?”

Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Era/s: Contemporary; Location/s: United Kingdom – London; Other Categories: Novel, Women, Coming-of-Age, Prostitution, Motherhood, Mothers and Daughters.

An Unchoreographed Life

Well, I’m finally getting around to reading more of Jane’s back list, and it sure is worth the time! Mind you, I wasn’t sure what I was getting with this one, because from this blurb it sounds like it was about a young woman going back to find out more about her mother. That simply isn’t the case. In fact, what we get is more two versions of the same story – one being Belinda’s and the other being Alison. My only problem with this book was that it switched voices without warning, and that was a bit disconcerting for me (probably because it took my dyslexic brain a bit to figure out with whom the focus was). That said, once I got it, I could see that their voices were very different. It should have been easier (and it probably will be for other readers), because Davis does make Belinda sound young, and Alison more adult and world-weary. Other than that, there’s much to praise with this book (although it isn’t my favorite Davis book), which can be expected with a back list novel.

I should mention that the ending here was somewhat abrupt, but not something that was unexpected. While I usually prefer a book that doesn’t tie everything up into pretty bows, I did have a tiny problem in that the way Davis ended this didn’t allow me to have any strong emotional reaction. This is the other reason why I can’t give this novel a full 5/5 stars – no tears! But this didn’t ruin the book for me, it just left me thinking and wondering, mostly about Belinda. The thing is, I can’t really say what Davis could have done to better pull on my heartstrings. Maybe switching the order of the last two chapters might have done it (sorry, but I can’t get into that any further, because… no spoilers). Certainly, I wouldn’t have wanted some additional bit that reflected back from several years after the incidents in the novel, because as that would have been cheesy. Despite this, I really did feel a great deal of sympathy for Alison, but not quite as much for Belinda as perhaps Davis was hoping I would feel.

The thing that really continues to impress me about Davis is how she puts her characters into such unique situations and then draws out how the different people react to such circumstances. Davis always seems to find some interesting spots to put her characters into that seem totally realistic, if not highly probable, but never mundane – ever! In fact, I cannot see much in the way of any patterns that Davis has written, which always makes her stories feel fresh and alive. Davis never follows any formulas with her plots, except to see how her characters will cope with the events around them, and the obstacles that Davis devises (sometimes bordering on cruel ones) to put into their paths. This is why I can very warmly recommend this book, with another, very healthy rating of four and a half stars out of five. (Oh, and yeah… this book got yet another kick-a** amazingly beautiful cover!)


“An Unchoreographed Life” by Jane Davis was released in 2014. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell‘s, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones,, or new or used from Alibris.

This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: NONE, just my own, personal challenge of whittling down my TBR list!


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