They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey: ‘A question of morals’

Cover image for They're Going to Love You by Meg HowreyI’d not come across Meg Howrey before a blurb promising an ‘80s New York setting together with a resounding recommendation from Ann Patchett caught my eye. They’re Going to Love You, Howrey’s fourth novel, explores themes of love, betrayal and dedication against a background of the dance world as Carlisle is faced with visiting her dying father after a schism of nineteen years.

A great dancer needs a mysterious alchemy of humiliation and obsession. It’s a question of morals.

The daughter of a dancer and a ballet festival director, Carlisle is immersed in the world her grandmother fell in love with many decades ago. Her parents met when her mother was a dancer in Balanchine’s company, still dancing when pregnant with their daughter. By the time Carlisle is ten, her father is living with James in a Greenwich Village apartment carefully decked out to appear casually put together. They’re lovers but it’s some time before Carlisle will understand this. She visits Robert and James every summer, attending James’ classes and fostering ambitions for her own career but growing too tall to fulfil them. As AIDS cuts a swathe through Robert and James’ friends, Carlisle is left picking up what she can from overheard conversations and what James tells her. Carlisle thinks of Bank Street as her home rather than L A, where she spends most of the year with her mother, becoming closer each year to James, if not to her father, until in 1994, she becomes caught up in an emotional maelstrom that will throw a shadow over the rest of her life, taking a decision that leads to her unforgiving father turning his back on her. Nineteen years later, James asks her to come home to Bank Street to say goodbye to Robert.

James and I are family and not. Teacher – student, and not.  

Confidants, and not. 

I could be his daughter, but I’m not.

Carlisle slips back and forth between the ‘80s, ‘90s and her present day 2016, as she unfolds her story in a plain, unadorned narrative making its emotional complexity all the more powerful. She’s the child of a father whose sexuality is publicly closeted, a sexuality his lover is wholly at ease with but whose mental health is frail. Carlisle must deduce much of this for herself, eager to please a father who seems capable only of complimenting her appearance, and James who she comes to love more than Robert. The events that result in her father’s repudiation of her shut her off from this relationship so important to her both emotionally and professionally. It’s a deeply involving story, its characters well drawn. Howrey is well qualified to portray this world in which a physically punishing dedication is required having danced professionally, immersing her readers in it. Of her other three novels, only The Wanderers seems to be available here in the UK. It’s gone straight on my list.

Bloomsbury Books: London 9781526655820 288 pages Hardback

No post from me on Friday. H and I are off for a few days before winter closes in.

15 thoughts on “They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey: ‘A question of morals’”

  1. I had a look for this when I popped into No Alibis Bookstore last week, but they didn’t have a copy – glad to hear it worked for you as it has lots of elements that I love.

  2. I’m interested by the connection to NYC and ballet. My cousin danced with NYC ballet as a child and when Barishnykov was still there, and Balanchine still an influence. I’m especially tempted by this as I am writing a narrative involving a central character who was a ballet dancer. Please stop sharing about such interesting novels or I’ll order things forever and never write a thing!

    1. That’s so interesting, Jennifer. You have to read this one. I’d love to hear what you think of it. You may know this already but Howrey is/was a dancer. And, sorry, can’t help it – still a bookseller at heart!

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