Come Dance With Me, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Since the age of thirteen, Christabel Alderton has been troubled by a sort of second sight that works sometimes, but not always.

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.

Fascinated by Christabel, diabetologist Elias Newman is keen to know her better but she's afraid of what might happen.

Taking the reader from the River Lea via a haunted woodland bog, out to the crash of the Pacific surf on Kahakuloa Head in the Hawaiian Islands, this is Russell Hoban at his engrossing, inimitable best.




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I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this book off the library shelf, but this wasn't it! Nevertheless, I found the book intriguing and (sort of) charming. I don't read a lot of romance, but I can like it if it's well-crafted, and this certainly is. The unlikely affair takes place between an ageing Goth rocker and a senior hospital consultant.The book is constructed entirely in the form of first-person narrative, but the narrator shifts from chapter to chapter, so that we see each character partly from the others' point of view. This extends even to several short chapters from the perspective of minor characters or even passers-by. Romance between such relatively old characters (Christabel is in her fifties, and Elias over sixty) means that each brings a lot of personal history to the relationship, most of it hidden from the other. The title refers to the German tale of the Erlking's daughter, who meets Herr Oluf riding in the woods and asks him to dance: he declines, and dies the next day, his wedding day. Christabel's personal life-story is full of premonitions of death, and the effective impetus of the novel is whether Elias can break the fatal charm by accepting her unprovoked invitation at their first meeting: <i>Komm tanze mit mir!</i>Like many literary novels, the book is laced with references -- to the ballad of the Erlking; Egon Schiele's painting of "Death and the Maiden" and Schubert's quartet of the same name; Redon's painting "The Cyclops". Not all of these are familiar to me, but their place in the narrative is so well-set that it didn't really matter. The only thing I couldn't quite fathom was why the action had to go from London to Hawaii: maybe the author had been there and had a lot of material he wanted to use (including folklore about bats and some political rumbling about Hawaiian independence).I am glad that I accidentally encountered this book, which has confirmed me in my opinion that anything by Hoban is probably worth reading.MB 2-ii-2010

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