This month I want to introduce you to a writer who is new to me: Sarra Manning. A journalist and an author, Sarra has written a huge number of young adult books but turned to adult fiction in 2009. I found her book, After the Last Dance, through a review in Grazia magazine, a section of this women’s weekly that I regularly scan for recommendations. (Here’s hoping one of my books will one day grace the page!)
After the Last Dance by Sarra Manning
After the Last Dance is a tale of two women and two love stories set some 70 years apart. The novel begins in 1943 when young Rose, having run away from home, arrives at London’s King Cross. She has only one goal – to get entrance to the glamorous Rainbow Corner, the heaven on earth where homesick American soldiers drink coca-cola and eat doughnuts, while dancing the night away with pretty English girls.
The second thread of the story is set in present day Las Vegas and features a runaway bride. Leo, a struggling artist is nursing a hangover with a beer when the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen walks into the bar, wearing a white dress and a tiara on top of her honey-blonde hair.
While we see Rose settle into war-time London, dodging bombs and falling in love, her story is intertwined with a budding romance between Leo and the mysterious English beauty. While they drunkenly get hitched, in tried and tested Las Vegas style, Leo gets a message from London that his aunt is dying. Though realizing the marriage was a terrible – alcohol induced – mistake, they decide to travel together back to Britain.
Two Enchanting Tales of Love
I couldn’t put this book down. The two stories, which are intertwined in the book, are both engaging. You’re almost sorry when you realize the next chapter returns to the other strand – until you again get involved with that story. I did, however, prefer Rose’s tale, which is set during the war. Descriptions of Rainbow Corner; the bombings during the Blitz, the rationing and lack of foodstuffs, stockings and almost everything; the soldiers who come and go in and out of Rose’s and her friend’s lives seemed very well researched and paint vivid images of wartime London. If I had one criticism of After the Last Dance, I would say that the present day tale lacked some of the passion and enthusiasm of the wartime story, although the modern strand gives the novel a balance and an insightful comparison to the life we lead now to the one lived more than 70 years ago.
Overpaid, Oversexed and Over Here
Sarra Manning has said that the inspiration for this book was Rainbow Corner, a social club run by American Red Cross for US servicemen stranded alone in London during WW2. They were described as ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’ by the Brits at the time. Manning says that she saw a Pathe film clip about the club and was fascinated by the place. She imaged how a young girl, in the 1940s, would have seen the same images and wanted immediately to have a slice of that glamour and fun. In one of my previous posts, I talk about how we writers find our stories. This is such a good example!
Over to you