An Exploration of Family, Place and Self
This fascinating, beautifully-written book takes the current interest in family history, so often an exercise in nostalgia, and applies to it a series of more searching questions. What influence do past lives, seemingly remote, have on our own? Can anything be learned about the world we inhabit from the struggles of those that came before? And how can their experience be recreated or imagined when the evidence is, in most cases, sadly lacking? In trying to answer these questions, Bruce Johns begins with his father’s death; then works forward through the personal crisis that followed, while looking back for the origins of these events in previous generations, the two narratives inescapably entwined. He learns about the family’s roots in Cornwall; tracks them on their migration to London; watches how they prosper as the city grows; and sees how it ends in tragedy and rancour, even as his own fortunes begin to improve.
The result is a quest that will intrigue and inspire anyone who has wondered about the roots of their own circumstances and character. Sometimes painfully honest about its author’s troubles, The Dancer and the Drum treats its cast of lowborn characters with the seriousness normally reserved for more prominent subjects, and in so doing affirms the drama and dignity in every life.