Pretending to Dance | Diane Chamberlain

Kate Dawes reviews PRETENDING TO DANCE from prolific U.S. writer Diane Chamberlain, with this being her 24th novel to date. PRETENDING TO DANCE is all about secrets and lies and the inability to leave the past buried for ever. If you are a fan of her previous work, THE BROKEN STRING, NECESSARY LIES AND SECRET LIVES or one of the other twenty two to chose from you will love this one. It is out now from the peeps at Pan MacMillan, you should be able to grab it at most bookstores or you can get it HERE. Enjoy Kate’s review and have a great day……..all the best……..JK.


Pretending to Dance Book Cover image
Pretending to Dance | Diane Chamberlain | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Book Cover image



Diane Chamberlain, best selling author of THE BROKEN STRING, NECESSARY LIES AND SECRET LIVES, brings us her latest story of family dysfunction, secrets and lies in PRETENDING TO DANCE.

Molly and her husband Aidan have a near perfect marriage built on honesty and pride themselves on having no secrets but as they start the process of adopting a child and more questions about their families are asked something is on Molly’s mind, a dark secret of her own which Aidan knows nothing about. Molly hasn’t always been honest.

Flash back to the summer of 1990. A fourteen year old Molly is living in North Carolina on a large plot of family land named Morrison Ridge. The land has been in the family for 150 years with Molly’s parents, grandmother, aunts and uncles having their own houses around the property creating a safe, secure, closed neighbourhood for Molly to grow up in. Things on Morrison Ridge, however, are more complicated than they appear. Molly’s much adored father has MS and his condition is deteriorating. Add to this that his former lover and Molly’s birth mother also lives on the ridge not far from Molly, her father and adoptive mother and is not well liked by much of the family. Finally for a little more family tension something is happening this summer, the extended family keep having family meetings which Molly isn’t invited to attend and after each one arguments and ill feelings seem to rise, are they really discussing land sales as they’ve told Molly or is something else brewing?

At the end of this summer finding her feet and pushing her and her parents boundaries Molly will be changed forever and the repercussions of this summer’s events will follow her for years to come right up until 2014 when we meet Molly lying to her husband.


Diane Chamberlain author image
Pretending to Dance | Diane Chamberlain | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Author image – Photo Credit: Pan MacMillan website


Drawing on her past work as a social worker and psychotherapist Chamberlain is well positioned to bring us Molly’s father, himself a therapist and author who practices and writes ‘pretend therapy’ basically the idea that if you pretend you’re brave, or happy, or dancing, you’ll convince yourself you actually are. This brings us the title, PRETENDING TO DANCE, but also contributes a lot to the dysfunction in the family as we suspect that some interactions are based around pretending. From the outset Molly’s father is in a wheelchair and as the summer progresses other characters tell her more frequently that he is getting sicker and is not happy but as Molly never sees this from him herself we as readers join the dots long before Molly does and the outcome is fairly predictable from early on.

The narrative structure stays with Molly throughout jumping backwards and forwards between 1990 Molly and 2014 Molly. This allows us to see how Molly’s childhood has influenced her views and values as an adult, the character development however is not as strong as some of the lesser characters leaving Molly emotionally stunted and unable to let go of the past. Despite comments from other characters about her picking up her father’s skill for therapy she doesn’t seem to apply much of this analysis to herself. The development of some of the other characters by comparison is much better rounded with Molly’s mother and the potential birth mother of Molly’s child becoming much deeper and more relatable characters than Molly.

Chamberlain has also written a short story, THE DANCE BEGINS, set earlier in Molly’s childhood on Morrison Ridge and with the same characters which are included at the end of this edition of the novel. For me this story was a little unnecessary, set before any of the intrigue and suspense in the novel I found it less interesting than the main text and while it showed some of the more complex relationships in the story at an earlier stage it didn’t really add to my interest or understanding of these relationships or provide any additional depth to the novel.

A multi-layered family drama built on pretending fans of Chamberlain’s earlier work are sure to love PRETENDING TO DANCE, a great easy summertime read.


3 and a Half Pops


Having always loved stories one of Kernel Kate’s most frequent childhood memories was her parents telling her in the early hours that it was way too late to still be reading and to go to sleep, but she would always sneak in the end of the chapter. Her love of stories led to a career in movies as well as remaining an avid reader of everything from novels to academic papers and junk mail. She makes a perfect reading machine fit to the Salty Cob.