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From the bestselling author of ‘Longhorns’. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and often bawdy, Lola Dances ranges from the 1850 slums of the Bowery to the mining camps of California and Montana, to the Barbary Coast of San Francisco. Little Terry Murphy, pretty and effeminate, dreams of becoming a dancer. Raped by a drunken profligate and threatened with prison, Terry flees the Bowery and finds himself in the rugged settlement of Alder Gulch, where he stands out like a sore thumb among the camp’s macho inhabitants–until the day he puts on a dress and dances for the unsuspecting miners as beautiful Lola Valdez–and wins fame, fortune and, ultimately, love.
Oh! What a wonderful, captivating story!
“Lola dances” is a coming of age story, very much a Bildungsroman, starting with an emotional loss, a trauma that will send our hero in wandering tribulations around the wild, wild world in search of maturity and acceptance, thus learning and earning the hard way love, dignity and a place in the world.
You probably already saw the tags attached to this review and noticed that it contains rape, dubious consent and incest. You should of course avoid this story if those are huge, unbearable peeves of yours, but I want to stress that although Banis’ style is undeniably direct and the sex is raw and gritty when it is all that there is to it, it is in no way dark erotica. I guess that what I want you to know is that yes, there are unsettling topics but darkness is not the core of this story that is first and foremost…entertaining, for lack of a better word.
Let me tell you…
Banis introduced me to his somewhat Billy Elliot of a character, made me fall for him only to see him become prey of a sexual predator, then snatched him from said predator’s claws, let me sigh in relief and unclench my mama bear teeth one brief moment before sending him on new adventures. In the meantime, I have bathed in a Dickens-like atmosphere to be transported in the blink of an eye in another kind of misery, as gritty and raw as the first, yet with its own ambiance reminiscent of Jack London. And I was only at the 20% mark! The remaining 80% treated me the same way with absolutely no time-out until the very end.
The cast of second characters surrounding Terry provides perfect foils, helpers or pitfalls on the route toward the Happy Ever After : we have a depraved well-off, a not-quite-there Man of God, a big-hearted prostitute, a gruff giant to name only a few. I loved hating and despising his co-stars : the abusive motherf@cker of an orang-utan (my apologies to the orang-utans) who is proof that a part of humanity did stop evolving at one point, and the Narcissus in love with his dick, benevolently offering his magical body fluids to the world adoration (he obviously has descendants in the romance genre, but whatever).
The unknowing king of this crowd is Terry. Who is sweet, admittedly a little silly sometimes, but brave and stubborn, who submits but never breaks, who becomes Lola but still is Terry, who carries the story.
You got it by now; “Lola dances” is a roller-coaster of emotions, change of scenery and perspectives, so much an adventure movie that I could swear I saw the final scene in slow motion and the credits scrolling down on my kindle’s screen. With Dolby stereo.
It’s about a wisp of a boy wrestling life into submission in petticoats and high heels, it’s the victory of the sashaying fairy, the revenge of the abused, the triumph of the outcast! I cringed, bit my nails, raged, sagged with relief, cheered, hooted, clapped…
All in all and in short, Lola danced and believe me, I danced with her! Thank you, Mister Banis.