After being abandoned by her traveling companion in Greece, Anna Rossi finds herself in the company of two men, the German Max and the Danish Peter. Both are mysterious and dashing, but this novel is so much more than a torrid romance (though it does not disappoint on that front). She travels through Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Bulgaria with her companions, learning about their complex pasts, and herself in the process. In Pirin, Anna meets Spiro, a member of a Macedonian revolutionary group. The two fall hopelessly in love, but the volatile instability of the region, and Spiro’s political radicalism in particular, threaten their newfound bliss — and their lives.
As she traverses Europe, Anna, who is Jewish, contemplates the scars left on the continent by the Holocaust, a specter that is never far from her mind as she wonders constantly whether revealing herself as a Jew could put her in danger, even decades after the end of World War II. This aspect of the novel is complemented by Anna’s memories about the anti-Semitism her parents faced, and a particularly poignant scene in a synagogue in Sofia that captures the enduring spirit and interconnectedness of the Jewish population in the aftermath of unthinkable atrocity. While the momentum of the plot is occasionally halted by historical exposition, the information proves critical to a full understanding of the novel’s setting.
From the opening sentences of the novel, it is clear that the author is skilled with language and imagery: “Sun waves scorch the shimmering surface of the autoroute. Beneath the huge sky only stunted bushes, hard-baked earth, and highway.” Anna views herself poetically as “mere flotsam in a swirling sea” as she embarks on her mission of self-exploration — “a set of random chromosomes adrift in a meaningless life.” The author’s linguistic depth and precision illuminate Anna and her surroundings with incandescent vitality.
The author provides labeled maps to help readers unfamiliar with Eastern Europe orient themselves as they follow Anna’s journey.
ANNA’S DANCE is a tender, evocative account of a young woman’s reckoning with her past and the intergenerational trauma of the Holocaust set in the smoldering context of Eastern European political intrigue in the 1960s — an informative, beautiful, and romantic odyssey of self-discovery.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader