Review of The Last Dance by Victoria Heslop – 3.5 Stars.

The Last Dance: And Other StoriesThe Last Dance: And Other Stories by Victoria Hislop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a quirky little book which I picked up after a visit to Athens hoping it would capture some of the pretty Greek city between its pages.

Some of the stories have a bit of a moral to them particularly the Kafenion which tells the story of twin brothers who get an equal share in their fathers café but are forever jealous of the other and find it difficult to share.

The Periptero is another little story that holds a bit of moral within the tale, telling the story of a young flashy man who flaunts his money and wealth in front of an elderly newspaper kiosk owner who has learned the value of the little things. Will the young man get his comeuppance for his greed and vanity?

The writing in this book is often very beautiful and very evocative of Greek settings. For example:

“Manos worked through the night and with a giant can of white emulsion and a roller he swiftly covered the stained anaglypta. Soon the place was transformed. He repainted the bar in a bright blue and resolved to paint the frames of two chairs each night until they were all in matching azure. The effect was dramatic.”

All the stories are quite slow burning which is fine for a holiday read but just something people looking for a fast action page-turner should be aware.

Despite the book containing ten short stories all the characters were quite unique and a joy to read about. Of these, one of my favourites was Kyria Kakanidis from the story “The Lesson”. Her character was smart, humble, and overall very likeable. Well-portrayed by the author. The Last Dance - internal image

 

As I said this is a quirky little book.

 

I think it’s probably a 3.5 stars. It is slow and despite being short stories the author spends a long time on description rather than getting to the plot. Also, the stories have limited conversations so sometimes you get page after page of words without dialogue to break it up. This can be a little off-putting. However, the stories themselves are joyful. There is a well-thought out range of tales and I enjoyed the authors not with photos and inspirations behind the pieces.

 

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The Storm

The storm had grounded all planes.

airport-image-by-dawn-miller

People stood muttering to one another, some yelled angrily at the flight teams, some napped uncomfortably on the harsh metal chairs. It was during the chaos that Alfie escaped. Making his way down the restricted corridors, he couldn’t help his excitement. He had always been curious by airports, now he had a chance to explore. When the tannoy went off calling his name he ignored it. Eventually, he made his way to a doorway where an air hostess was announcing they had been cleared for flight – slipping his way past the queuing muttering people he moved down a long gangway. He stood with a large family, smiling at a boy about his age. The air hostess moved out the way to allow them all past and he found he was on an aeroplane, time to find a new hiding place. He fell asleep beneath a large holdall, waking some time later. He was excited to tell his family of his great adventure. He just needed to get home now.


Short fiction piece of 175 words for FFfAW challenge – This week’s photo prompt is provided by Dawn Miller. Thank you Dawn!

Click on the frog to see more flash fiction inspired by this image 🙂

 

Saying Goodbye

Voyages, trips, journeys. Why did everyone think they were good things? Couldn’t things just stay the same? Emily looked at Ben sitting next to her on the couch. He took her hand gently.

“Don’t worry Emily. Don’t be sad, it’ll be okay.” He said but it just made her more upset.

“I don’t want to go I’ll miss you too much.” She said between sniffles.

Emily’s mum walked in. “Emily time to get in the car. It’s two weeks at camp, not death row!” She said pointing to the door. It was going to be a long two weeks.

airplane image - courtesy of Rich Voza - friday fictioneers

Aeroplane Image courtesy of Rich Voza for Friday Fictioneers

 


Originally written in response to Friday Fictioneers.

Using the above image tell a story in 100 words or less.

The Story of Arthur and Rose – #Writephoto

I was sitting on a bench by the river studying on a perfect April day, the sun was shining warm upon my skin and a gentle breeze occasionally rifled the pages laid out around me. Engrossed in the course-work laid out before me I was unaware of the little old man wandering along the pathway until he was beside me on the bench.

“Morning,” he said cheerfully as I glanced up at him from my books.

“Morning”, I replied and watched as the little old man sat down on the end of the bench, a beautiful bouquet of roses wrapped in twine filling his withered hands. I moved some of my books to allow him more room but he never moved and seemed happy just to sit in his spot watching the river glide past. After 10 minutes, the old man stood and walked towards the little bridge going over the river but instead of stepping on it, he made his way down the pathway and ever so gently placed the flowers in the water and watched them drift away down the river. Once they were out of sight, he made his way back up the bank across the little bridge and away.

I stared after his disappearing form, my mind trying to understand the strangely beautiful sight it had just witnessed. The flowers must have been fake, I thought. When he disappeared from view I returned to my books and soon the moment was forgotten.

As the beautiful weather continued, I returned to my favourite study spot as often as possible. Exactly one week after the first incident, the old man appeared once again. I struggled to suppress my excitement when he sat down beside me with the most beautiful flowers once again with the same greeting as before. My eyes focussed on the flowers, they were definitely real.

“Those flowers are beautiful”, I stammered trying to encourage conversation.

“Thank you, I grow them special for my wife, her favourite is the roses”, the old man responded and then turned his head towards the water. His eyes glazed over as he stared out and despite nothing else being said, I understood that the moment was private and his own. Once again after a brief period he stood and made his way to the water, delicately placed the flowers and watched as the water took them away.

This continued every week until my exams were over, we said little to each other apart from the same greeting and I understood the moment was his. Then summer started and I forgot all about the little old man who made the trip to the river each week.

In September, school restarted and I returned to my same study spot, I couldn’t deny my excitement when I saw the crooked figure walking towards me, his routine remained unchanged. Yet, this time, my eyes couldn’t stop staring at him, his step was much slower, his back was now a lot more hunched and his eyes looking deep and sallow in their sockets. I returned to my books as he sat down, trying to stop the staring but I couldn’t help my eyes returning from over the pages.

“Hi Kayley,” he said towards me.

“How did you know…” I started but his withered hand stretched out and returned to the notebook on the bench, my name in bold on the cover. I laughed in response.

“My name is Arthur.” I sat upright and leaned towards him taking his old hand gently I gave it one short shake.

“Pleased to meet you, Arthur”.  He nodded then stood up to leave, but after struggling to catch his breath he landed back heavily on the bench.

“Are you okay, Arthur?”. I threw my books down and fled to his side, picking up his roses that had fallen heavily onto the floor. A few of the stems had broken and as I handed them back to Arthur tears fell from his eyes.

“Oh no. I have broken my promise.” He mumbled under his breath.

“It’s okay Arthur, they aren’t that bad and you only put them in the river anyway.” I said trying to soothe him, but his eyes turned dark and hard as he looked at me, the pain glistening through the tears.

“I don’t put them in the river. I send them to my wife.” Confusion filled my face and I tried not to question him as I could see he was getting more and more upset. He slowly got control of his breathing, then looking at my anguished face continued.

“When my wife agreed to marry me I promised her flowers every week for the rest of her life. She was taken from me far too young and it was her wishes that her ashes be scattered in the river.” I nodded understanding and watched as he outstretched his arm. “It was that bridge I proposed to her. But once I scattered her ashes I had nowhere to send her flowers, then I realised the river would take them to her for me. I have sent her flowers every week since until I can be with her.” At that, he gave a hefty cough. “I don’t think that will be long now. And look at those flowers, I cannot send her those.”

I followed his gaze down to the sorry looking bunch of flowers. In a moment of inspiration I carefully untied the twine and removed the broken flowers, there wasn’t much left but a few strong roses remained. I stood up and wandered from the bench selecting some long grass stems, some ferns and some purple flowers from a tree and some big white daisies. Returning to the bench I selected the best from my collection and structured them by height with the roses featured prominently in the middle. Carefully taking the twine I wrapped them back up and handed them to Arthur’s trembling hands.

“Will she accept these, Arthur?” I asked cautiously.

“She will love them.” I nodded and slipping the rest of my books in my bag stood and helped him up.Roses

“Why don’t you let me walk with you, Arthur? I think I have been sat too long.” He nodded and I eased him off the bench. We walked arm in arm to the riverbed where he placed the flowers then I walked alongside him, to his front door just over the bridge.

“Thank you, Kayley.” He said as I stepped away from the doorway.

“Arthur, what was your wife’s name?” I asked.

“Rose.” I nodded just the once then left, knowing I had intruded on his personal space enough.

The next week I sat by the riverbed but Arthur didn’t return. I waited and waited but he didn’t show. Eventually, I stood and made my way over the bridge towards his home. As I did I searched the river for a sign he had been and I had missed him. My heart caught in my throat as on the opposite bank the bouquet I made stood caught in reeds. It hadn’t floated down the river. I reached over into the water and pushed the dying flowers on their way but once again they got stuck. I pushed them once more and finally they floated off down the river. Walking to Arthur’s house I could see people stood outside in a huddle. I stopped to listen and it turned out Arthur had been found in his greenhouse that morning.

I smiled as I walked away, my heart finding peace in the sadness. Arthur was taking Rose her flowers.

The next week I returned to the bench but my mind couldn’t focus. I kept looking for Arthur to appear, knowing that he wouldn’t. Frustrated, I looked at the crumpled pages before me. Ripping the page from the book, I began to fold and fold my mind lost in the motion. With my masterpiece complete I stood up and walked to the small pathway beside the bridge. Leaning carefully towards the water I placed the paper rose in the river and watched as it floated away. So, if you ever see a paper rose in the water, you know it’s just me saying hello to Arthur and Rose.

Origami River Rose


Originally written in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sue Vincents #writephoto challenge. A bit of a risk but I hope people enjoy it; romance isn’t really my genre but sometimes a story just wants to be told.

A Girl in Every Town

I first saw her on the midway. Her laughter, her wild curly hair, everything about her drew me to her. As her friends started to leave one by one, I took my chance at the hook-a-duck stall. Standing beside her and the couple she was with I reached over and scooped the duck out the water and turned to catch her eye.

“Do you want this?” I said pointing towards the teddy the stallholder had handed me.

“It’s not doing much for my reputation.” She giggled and nodded taking the teddy from me. She indicated that her friends were moving on and I nodded standing awkwardly at the stall.hook-a-duck

“Do you want to come with us?” she asked and my heart fluttered. We spent the next moving from ride to ride. Her couple friend and us making a perfect foursome. My favourite moment being alone on the love train as we entered into the darker tunnel she leaned into me and I caught the scent of raspberry that lingered in her hair. Walking to the gate I asked if I could see her again, she nodded and said we could meet back at the hook-a-duck tomorrow. I smiled and watched her leave, then turned to go to my trailer.

The next day my world sank as I was told this was the last night in town. We were to pack up after the show and move on to the next town. All day I mopped while doing my chores, I couldn’t leave without her. As day turned to night I toured the grounds over and over keeping an eye out for her, hoping I hadn’t misplaced my trust to her. As it got dark I made my way once again to walk passed the hook-a-duck, where my heart skipped as I saw the mass of curls standing at the stall. As I approached, she smiled at me causing my voice to catch in my throat. She held up the little teddy I had given her the night before, she had brought it back.

“I’m so pleased you came back.” She nodded and pointed to the love train. I understood and we made her way arm in arm towards it. In the darkness, I saw her eyes glistening and took the opportunity to kiss her. She was hesitant then kissed back, my whole body filled with warmth. We walked towards my caravan, I told her that I must leave tomorrow, she began to cry saying she didn’t want me to leave her. I nodded to reassure her but I knew she wouldn’t be leaving me.

That night as I helped the team clear the remains of the carnival, I walked towards Jack that ran the hook-a-duck and handed him the teddy. “I’m sorry mate, did this one not work out either?” I nodded sullenly. “Maybe in the next town, lad.” He said reassuringly. “Only if the perfect girl is there.” I said and smiled. That night I slept soundly as the train moved to the next town. Wrapped inside my pillow was a perfect raspberry scented curl.


Originally written using the prompt “I first saw her on the midway” featured on the blog propellant. Check them out for inspirational prompts to keep you writing. My random number is 27.

 

The Tree to Treasure

My hands grip the branches which have woven themselves around the trees.
My brother below stares up in wonder as I climb but this is an adventure I must take on my own.
Going higher I listen for the sounds I know are sure to come, each foothold enticing me further and further until I am passed the green leaves and into the clouds.
I hold my breathe and listen.
The sweet snores of the giant rumble through the clouds towards me and I know that with a few more brave steps I will find the treasure I was promised.

 

Tree by Sue Vincent

Tree Photo Courtesy of Sue Vincent.

 


I hope you enjoyed my little dabble into the world of Jack – originally written in response to Sue Vincent’s challenge – #writephoto over at DailyEcho. Check it out for further creative imaginings within 100 words or less, you may even be inspired to pen a quick post of your own! KL❤

 

The Secret Home of the Fairies

Isabella followed the music.

Haunting and enchanting, she couldn’t help but step towards it.

Luring her from the street until she reached the ancient stones.

She had scoffed when her mother had told her this was the home of the fairies, now before her eyes they danced with glee to the music.

When the music stopped Isabella turned to walk away, she couldn’t wait to tell her mother what she found but before she moved a small fairy appeared before her raised its finger to its pursed lips “shhh…..” Isabella nodded, she would keep the secret of the fairies.

stoned - Sue Vincent

Photo Courtesy of Sue Vincent @ Daily Echo

 

 


I hope you enjoyed my little “fairy” tale – originally written in response to Sue Vincent’s challenge – #writephoto over at DailyEcho. Writers are encouraged to write a story in 100 words to go with the photo. It is amazing the variety of original story-telling which features. Check it out, you may even be inspired to pen a quick plot of your own! KL ❤