Book Review: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
Release Date: 8th October 2015
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Buy: HardbackKindle


When the pretending ends, the lying begins . . . Molly Arnette is good at keeping secrets. As she and her husband try to adopt a baby, she worries that the truth she’s kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. Molly ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved. Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a healthy future, she discovers that even she doesn’t know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.


When we first meet Molly and Aiden they are going through the process of adopting a child after Molly suffered a miscarriage and the couple learn they can’t have children of their own. Everything about their application seems to be going well, at least it is from Aiden’s perspective. Molly, however is not so certain. It soon becomes apparent that Molly is hiding a tangled web of secrets about her family that even Aiden is not aware of. However, Molly is petrified that with all of the background checks involved with the adoption process that her secrets will come out. She is certain that if the secrets about her upbringing come to light then she will lose Aiden forever – never mind risk having the longed-for child that Molly so desperately wants. But what exactly is Molly hiding? What family secret from her past is she so desperate to keep hidden?

Confession time. This is the first ever Diane Chamberlain book that I’ve read. (I know! Appalling!) My conclusion from reading Pretending to Dance is that I have been missing out – BIG TIME.
The premise for this story sounded fantastic in itself and I was pretty much hooked on this book before I even started the first page. I was desperate to find out Molly’s secrets. What was so awful that she had to keep it hidden from the lovely, kind, understanding Aiden?
The way in which we find out about Molly’s past is done in such a clever and compelling way. We get to hear from both present day Molly – struggling to keep her past hidden and so desperate to be granted the child that she longs for – and we also hear from fourteen year old Molly as she was growing up in Morrison Ridge.
Teenager Molly lived a life that was both fascinating and heartbreaking to read about. Morrison Ridge is a gorgeous sounding piece of land in North Carolina where Molly and her family all live together in close proximity. It’s almost as if the family has their own little island as it’s such an isolated patch of land which sounds utterly idyllic. However, Molly’s upbringing is far from idyllic as her father has Multiple Sclerosis and he is confined to a wheelchair, unable to move any part of his body and requiring constant care. The relationship that Molly shares with her father, Graham, is heartbreaking. They really care for one another and their relationship felt so real to me. It was clear how much Graham loved Molly and Molly thought the world of her father in return – wanting to make him happy and feel fulfilled in any way that she could.
Despite all that is going on with her father, Molly is still your typical fourteen year old – she loves Johnny Depp and bonds with her friends over New Kids on the Block.
I was hugely compelled reading about Molly’s teenage life and slowly more pieces of the puzzle started to fit together for me as the story progressed. It was then fascinating to see how the effects of her childhood impacted on the present-day Molly.
I am really conscious of giving away any of the storyline here as I can’t recommend enough that you discover this bittersweet, complex novel for yourself.
I am thrilled to have discovered Diane Chamberlain’s writing, so much so that I have gone and ordered a few of her other books as I can’t beleive I have been missing out on her novels for so long! As a huge fan of Jodi Picoult’s, I definitely noticed some similarities with Diane’s writing and Jodi’s – particularly the way they both set the scene and allow the reader to really get inside the characters heads.

Pretending to Dance is a must-read and I just couldn’t get enough of this story. Superb writing, brilliantly crafted characters and a novel that really explores the complexities and darker side of family life.

A huge thank you to Francesca at Pan Macmillan.


Diane ChamberlainDiane Chamberlain is the USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 24 novels published in more than twenty languages. Some of her most popular books include Necessary Lies, The Silent Sister,The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, and The Keeper of the Light Trilogy. Diane likes to write complex stories about relationships between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and friends. Although the thematic focus of her books often revolves around family, love, compassion and forgiveness, her stories usually feature a combination of drama, mystery, secrets and intrigue. Diane’s background in psychology has given her a keen interest in understanding the way people tick, as well as the background necessary to create her realistic characters.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and spent her summers at the Jersey Shore. She also lived for many years in San Diego and northern Virginia before making North Carolina her home.

Diane received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, Diane worked in hospitals in San Diego and Washington, D.C. before opening a private psychotherapy practice in Alexandria Virginia specializing in adolescents. All the while Diane was writing on the side. Her first book, Private Relations was published in 1989 and it earned the RITA award for Best Single Title Contemporary Novel.


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