Amidst the plethora of writings about William Wordsworth’s life, both historical and fictional, this book, I believe, would please the great man himself – perhaps most of all in belated gratitude for the sister who offered up much of her life in loyal service and sacrifice. Even Dorothy’s celebrated journal was written with the declared motivation, ’to give William pleasure’.
Dances with the Daffodils, by Matthew Connolly, is a beautiful fictional recreation of Dorothy’s life, her inspirational love of nature and her complicated emotions surrounding the fierce loyalty felt towards her brother. Connolly introduces Dorothy to a fictive suitor and a strange fusion of lives – aspirations, yearnings, frustration and innocence – occurs at the moment their lives touch on that memorable day on the shores of Ullswater, in the reflection of the immortalised ‘host of daffodils’.
Set in the spring of 1802 in the turbulent background of the Napoleonic wars, the story’s main character, Luke Greenhead, prodigal son of a Grasmere shepherd returns to his birthplace in a desperate attempt to recapture a sense of belonging. The fairly gentle plot acts as a conduit for the turbulent and oft times suppressed emotions of two lives in search of a resting place for their unrequited love. There is a deliberate acceleration in the pace of the plot towards the end of the book with a twist in the tale that caught me by surprise but which pushed believability for me just a tad. However, this didn’t detract or spoil the book at all.
It is clear that this book has been impeccably researched and is interwoven with poignant descriptions of the harshness of the social and economic climate of the early 19th century at the height of enclosure and when drystone walling advanced across the Lake District landscape. The language and pace of writing is haunting and beautiful and the portrayal of the complex characters captivating. All this with a peppering of subtle humour thrown in.
This is a book to read if you are travelling in the Lake District. I predict that those readers with a certain level of fitness will want to scamper up the closest mountain and those with a less robust constitution will be scanning the horizon for a suitable field of daffodils to dance in.
Dances with the Daffodils
- Matthew Connolly
- Publisher: Novel-DNA Books Ltd; 1 edition (18 Jun 2013)
- ISBN-10: 0957574002
- ISBN-13: 978-0957574007
- Review written by +Tina Taylor