Margery Blandon, an uptight 79-year-old, is on the 43rd floor of the Tropic Hotel debating whether to jump over the edge. How she came to get there is the basis of There Should Be More Dancing by Rosalie Ham.
Ham, the author of The Dressmaker, portrays a darkly humorous look at the process of aging, the mistakes of life and the vagaries of family.
Margery has lived in the one street for the past 60 years. Arriving as an eighteen year old pregnant bride, life was lived around Margery while she cross-stitched, judged others and engaged in long conversations with her dead twin sister.
Ham does an excellent job of conveying the frustrations of aging. The loss of independence, the body packing it in on you, the inability to control your future. There is also a sense of sadness as you remain stationary while the street you live in changes around you, people die, move away, new families arrive, cute toddlers become teenage hoodlums, renovations begin on the rundown houses, the local drug dealer moves in next door.
Margery engenders both sympathy and rage as we watch her physical decline while refusing to recognise what’s happening around her both now and in the past.
The loss of dreams and hope is evident in both Margery and her family, eldest son Walter a champion boxer injured in a bout, Morris the second son on permanent “holiday” in Thailand, and daughter Judith who Margery suspects may be trying to kill her.
In the end Margery is forced to acknowledge the secrets of the street she has lived in for all these years, the secrets her own family has kept from her. At the Tropic Hotel as she reflects on the life she has led Margery must confront the truth, not just about what has happened but her part in it all.
Ham creates characters who, while behaving badly, still engender a degree of sympathy as each of them carries with them the sense of loss of dreams unfulfiled. The novel certainly confronted the notion of aging in our society and makes you think about how you would consider your own life lived. Was it one of reward, enjoyment and engagment? Or are there regrets? Should there have been more dancing?