The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

1518, in and around Strasbourg, one starving, desperate woman starts to dance in the market square. It’s not long before others join her.

In the meantime, Lisbet, mistress of the bees on a farm outside the city, is waiting for her sister, a woman she has never met, to return from her punishment in the mountains. No one has told her why Agnethe was sent away, not even Lisbet’s best friend Ida.

Lisbet is pregnant, again. So far, she has lost all of her children and is not allowed to speak of them. Instead, she has found an old pagan dancing tree in the nearby forest upon which she hangs ribbons and lays out offerings to remember the children who died in her womb. The tree is well hidden and she always visits alone.

Soon, there are more women dancing in the market square. Soon, there is an epidemic of dancing and the authorities have a problem on their hands.

If you are a fan of Kiran Millwood Hargrave you will not be disappointed. Female desire, intelligence and the longing for fair treatment, recognition and independence are themes that run throughout this and others of her books. I won’t say too much more about this novel, but the dancing of the bees, the women and the ribbons of the old dancing tree all somehow come together to forge a freer life for Lisbet and the other women in her life, even her mother-in-law, even though this freedom comes with painful costs. The story will pick you up and carry you quickly through the pages as these threads join together in an emotional journey. It is a very elegantly crafted book.

I’ll be reviewing, Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro next. Followed by, Brickmakers by Selva Almada, All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien, Seven Steeples by Sara Baume and the much awaited Reverse Engineering.