The Horse Dancer
Jojo Moyes’ THE HORSE DANCER is a story about family, love, strength and determination, but most of all, it’s about a young girl’s guts and bravery.
Having lost her mother at a young age and her grandmother four years prior to the start of the novel, 14-year-old Sarah Lachapelle lives a happy, quiet life with her grandfather, Papa, in a less-than-desirable area of London. Papa gives her a horse named Boo that they’ve been training in city parks and alleys. A once-famous horseman with the prestigious and elite riding school Le Cadre Noir, Papa received the highest honors as a young man. Now he’s training Sarah and Boo to achieve those same honors. Life is good until Papa becomes ill, and Sarah’s life totally changes.
Natasha Macauley is an up-and-coming lawyer who works with children and their families. She and her photographer husband, Mac, tried to conceive several times, but she miscarried each time. The pain of not being able to conceive a child is unbearable for her. Instead of letting Mac in and communicating to him after the miscarriages, she turns away, and now their marriage is almost destroyed. They both commit adultery, and Mac moves out of their beautiful home for one year. He has now returned, and divorce is surely imminent.
"Jojo Moyes has another hit novel on her hands, and just like ME BEFORE YOU, it would make a great movie. The story really draws you in, especially when she makes the main character realize that she has nothing left in the world but herself."
Sarah needs to maintain going to school, visiting Papa in the hospital and continuing her training with Boo on her own now. She and Natasha meet under unfavorable circumstances when Sarah is unable to pay for an item in a supermarket and is accused of shoplifting. Natasha comes to her aid, pays for the item and drives her home. When they arrive at the flat, they notice the door has been crowbarred and the place has been burglarized. With no other relatives for Sarah to live with and the only other option being to stay overnight at the police station, Natasha and Mac suggest that she spend the night at their house and help figure things out with a social worker the next morning.
Natasha and Mac decide to take on joint responsibility for Sarah until Papa gets back on his feet. Since the two were trying to conceive for so long, Sarah almost fills the hole in their marriage. For Natasha, though, having a teenager in the house takes a bit of adjusting, while Mac warms up to her immediately. However, Sarah is hiding secrets and begins cutting classes trying to spend time with Boo and visit Papa in the hospital when she can. Natasha and Mac don’t even know Boo exists and can’t figure out why she’s skipping school. That’s when Mac decides to follow her in his car after he drops her off at school one morning, and finds out where she’s going and what she’s doing. In the meantime, trouble brews where Boo is stabled, and money once again becomes the main issue.
As the trouble spirals out of control, Sarah makes a run for it with Boo, trying to get to Le Cadre Noir in France. She and Papa were discussing taking a vacation there before he fell ill, but the time is definitely ripe to make a break for it now. Using Natasha’s credit card, she somehow manages to make her way there with Boo. Obviously, Natasha and Mac are out of their minds when Sarah goes missing, and they get in the car and follow her tracks by the credit card trail. Moyes created clear pictures in my mind wherever Sarah was riding Boo on their way to France. On the wet and rainy days, I could feel the dampness and rawness.
THE HORSE DANCER is not a young adult novel, but Moyes succeeds in creating a typical teenage character. Sarah tries desperately to do everything on her own without help, but she is just not mature enough, despite being headstrong and incredibly gutsy. She thinks she can handle everything that is happening to her, yet she needs adult supervision and boundaries. However, she is still very likable, and as a reader it is easy to see when she is trying her best to do the right thing. Moyes carefully balances her teenage nature with the depth of someone who is in over her head.
Although Natasha and Mac have their ups and downs as they try to figure out their mess of a marriage, the one thing that is binding them together is Sarah. They obviously still love each other, but will this be enough to revive their relationship and become a family?
Jojo Moyes has another hit novel on her hands, and just like ME BEFORE YOU, it would make a great movie. The story really draws you in, especially when she makes the main character realize that she has nothing left in the world but herself. Moyes also took me on a journey in my mind; I saw such vivid scenes where I could picture Natasha and Mac’s lovely house, the alleys, the stables, the ferry rides and the countryside as Sarah travels to France. Even though I’ve only read ME BEFORE YOU and The HORSE DANCER, I can say that Moyes certainly knows how to tug at your heart.
Reviewed by Vivian Payton on April 11, 2017