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A Dance for Emilia Hardcover – October 1, 2000
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Sam and Jacob have been best friends for over forty years. In high school they shared a dream of success in the arts--Sam as a dancer and Jacob as an actor. Sam had to give up his dream; Jacob found some success in theater. His muse led him to California, while Sam remained in New York. Despite the distance, they have only grown closer. They figure they'll be best friends in old age.
But Sam dies unexpectedly. His devastated friend travels back east for the funeral and meets Emilia, Sam's last and greatest love, who inherited Sam's Abyssinian cat, Millamant. United in grief, Jacob and Emilia begin exchanging mail, exchanging memories of Sam. The power of their grief draws Sam back to them--into Millamant's body.
It's a delicate subject. Fantasy, like SF, traditionally deals with subjects by literalizing metaphors; but if you believe this approach is inappropriate for loss, then A Dance for Emilia is probably not the book for you. However, Peter S. Beagle handles the subject as sensitively and skillfully as possible, writing with intelligence, compassion, and fine prose about grief, obsession, and the importance of letting go. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
Beagle's newest (after Tasmin, 1999) is a charming reflection on dreams and the afterlife set in modern-day Manhattan. Unambitious actor Jake Holtz, who narrates, is introduced to the profound as the spirit of his best friend, dancer Sam Kagan, possesses the body of his female Abyssinian cat, Millamant, two years after Sam's death. Sam stuns his former lover, Emilia Rossi, and Jake by practicing leaps and pirouettes that were once impossible for his less flexible human body. Switching fluidly from past to present, Beagle charts Jake's friendship with Sam, from childhood on, in concise yet lyric prose. This book is brief, but it presents a wealth of impressive ruminations on love, longing and the power of the bonds between people. From its opening pages, a sullenly beautiful mood permeates the narrative and lingers throughout Jake's sobering reflections and witty dialogue. Despite his inclusion of the ethereal, Beagle successfully illuminates: "Not facts, but the accuracy under and around and beyond facts. Not a recital of events not even honestyDbut truth."
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
While the book lacks the substance of some earlier works, like "A Fine and Private Place" or "The Last Unicorn", it carries itslef like a Zen brush painting: a few brush strokes reveal an entire landscape. What's more, the strokes lead us into interpreting what we see. Peter Beagle's dialog between the characters are the brushstokes we will be lead to interpret into the scenes he verbally paints. We are shown just enough of the characters to identify each one, yet each reader will form a slightly different overall picture of the characters and events.
Even without looking deeply into the lines, the book is well developed and complete. The story of a shared friendship is well told and exemplary in it's own right. Many loquacious writers could take a lesson from the author in how to convey an idea without overwhelming the reader with words.
If you have ever lost someone close, there is a message here for you.
Unexpectedly, Sam dies from a heart attack. Jacob meets Emilla when he comes to clear out Sam's things. Jacob takes the cat home with him accompanied by Emilla so that can help each other grieve. Unexpectedly, the elderly arthritic Millament begins hoofing like a professional dancer and follows that up by talking. Jacob and Emilla's needs have brought Sam back to comfort them, but no one knows how he will return to that other place where he belongs now.
Cat lovers and Peter Beagle's fans will want to read this book, but should consider the price because though well written this book is a short novella. The book is beautifully filled with the Beagle magic, making it a wonderful holiday gift for those readers who cherish every one of the author's novels.
er, a lot. Beagle is a terrific writer insofar as imagination and verve, but this is his second soppy book about cats. Save your money.