Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When We Danced on Water by Evan Fallenberg

Title: When We Danced on Water
Author: Evan Fallenberg

Genre: Fiction (Israeli / Contemporary / Historical - WWII)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (6/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked immensely. Intensely.
Did I finish?: YES, in less than one day - Monday morning to Monday night.
One-sentence summary: Teo, an eighty-five year old ballet dancer, is inspired to find passion - and some lost memories of his youth - upon meeting a lovely 40-year waitress in Tel Aviv.
Reading Challenges: Eastern European, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Yes - it has this bittersweet feel that is very reminiscent of the novel's tone and matches one of the key settings of the story.

I'm reminded of...: Michael Ondaatje

First line: He said, "Where's Rona."

Do... I think this book would be perfect for book groups?: YES. It's slim and a quick, beautiful read, but covers great topics like obsession versus passion, commitment to art, and the thin line between public/private life.

Did... I desperately want to see a ballet after reading this?: YES. Fallenberg's descriptions of dance and the way bodies move were just marvelous.

Why did I get this book?: The moment I saw 'eighty-five year old retired ballet dancer', I was all over it.  I love ballet and the set up of this late-in-life romance intrigued me.

Review: As I said in my Teaser, this novel was effortless to read, and immensely enjoyable.  The writing was lovely -- a little lyrical, a little poetic -- and the plot simple but compelling.

The story revolves around Teo, the aforementioned 85-year old retired ballet dancer, and Vivi, a 40-ish waitress.  They meet at the coffee shop where Vivi works and strike up an unlikely friendship.  This friendship provokes conversations about art, obsession, and passion, themes which weave through the rest of the story, as we learn about Vivi's romantic past and Teo's experience in Berlin during World War II.

The romance was really secondary to Teo's reminiscences, which was fine because Teo's back story is fascinating.  A young Polish Jew dancing with a Danish ballet company, he and his fellow dancers are invited to perform in Berlin in 1939.  It's an opportunity of a life time -- so despite protests from friends in Denmark, he goes.  I don't want to give too much more away as my enjoyment came from not really knowing what to expect as the story unfolded.  But I was surprised, moved, horrified, and relieved, captivated by Teo and Vivi, eager to see how their relationship would develop.  The lyricism of Fallenberg's writing kept the sad parts from being too misery-inducing and made the moments of joy and happiness vibrate.

My one complaint is I found the end a tiny bit clunky but the story closed in a very neat and ultimately satisfying way, and it didn't detract from my overall enthusiasm for this book.  Highly recommended -- would be an effortless and fascinating weekend read.

*** *** ***

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of When We Danced on Water to one lucky reader!  Just leave a comment and an email address to enter.  Open to US/CA readers, closes 6/3. 


  1. Oh this one does sound fabulous and since I have never read anything about the ballet, I would love the chance to read this one. Please do enter me in your giveaway, and thanks for the wonderful review!


  2. I love books with coffee on the cover! Thanks for this one!


  3. Please, please, please!!

    We seem to have similar taste so if you loved this one, then I must read it.

    teresasreadingcorner at gmail dot com

  4. All: It really was SO good -- intense, of course -- but the writing was so luminous, it was bearable and lovely. So enjoyable.

  5. Thank you so much for the opportunity!!!

    littleone AT shaw doT ca

  6. Nice review! Thanks for the giveaway :)


  7. I think I know what you mean, after reading Dancer I really wanted to watch ballett :D

  8. I want to read this book so badly. I tried to win a copy on Goodreads, but I was not chosen :( Thank you for another opportunity to get my hands on it!


  9. Thanks for the review and giveaway! I'm always interested in historical fiction and also ballet since taking lessons for almost ten years as a kid.

    susanna dot pyatt at student dot rcsnc dot org

  10. This book sounds wonderful. I love that it's a different, unique storyline. I'm a fan of ballet and use to go to the ballet in NYC quite often. I need to get back to doing that! Your review is terrific. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of this book!


  11. Thanks for this giveaway. Really looking forward to reading this book!

  12. Thanks for the generous giveaway - I'd love to read this book, it seems so very interesting! :D

    GFC Follower: ~Enamored Soul~
    Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
    Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

  13. I'd love to read this! Thanks for the chance.


  14. A book that you read in one day because it was so good, is one that I want to check out :)
    No need to enter me in the giveaway, though, as my TBR pile needs serious taming!

  15. this book intriques me....thanks for the opportunity to read it :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  16. I would like to read this book. Late in life??? we old codgers need someone to write for us!


  17. I love the idea of late-in-life romances - I'm all about finding happiness where and when you can.

    So glad you enjoyed this one. I think I'll have to pick up a copy for myself - it looks great!

  18. Entry for Amanda Shorter Skelton

    a_skelton (at) hotmail (dot) com

  19. your review has really made me want to read this! The depth of your reviews puts me to shame :)

  20. I have heard positive reviews on this book and I enjoyed yours. Thanks for the giveaway!

    lag 110 at mchsi dot com

  21. Thank you for the opportunity.

  22. When We Danced on Water sounds so good. I love that ballet was included in the storyline as I, too, love ballet. Please enter me for a chance to win a copy.


  23. So glad to see you enjoyed this book, as I'll be reading it soon. I've never read about ballet; I was interested when I read it was about WWII. I will link to your review on War Through the Generations.

  24. @Anna - can't wait to see what you think of it -- and thank you!

  25. I'm hearing good things about this one. Please count me in. Thank you!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  26. Thanks for another great giveaway! I'm intrigued by WWII ballerina stories. Count me in!


  27. I was disappointed with Russian Winter (another older ballet dancer remembers type of novel) so am looking forward to When We Danced on Water.

    arcookson at yahoo dotcom

  28. I'm just making this giveaway. I had no idea you reviewed this WWII novel! You had me at "I'm reminded of...: Michael Ondaatje" I love his work, and I know I will love this if you were reminded of Ondaatje.

    savvyverseandwit at gmail

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  29. sounds like a lovely story (& I love ballet as well!)