The Next Step in the Dance
by Tim Gautreaux
This emotional, slow-burner of a novel was amongst the pile recommended to me at my recent Book Spa at Mr B’s Emporium in Bath. The store runs its very own publishing company, Fox, Finch & Tepper – aptly named after some of the most iconic literary characters. FF&T books are under-appreciated and crying out for some attention. Tim Gautreaux’s The Next Step in the Dance was actually published back in 1998 before falling out of circulation, and was picked up by the FF&T team back in 2014. Focusing on books with a strong sense of place with brave, confident characters, FF&T have succeeded in reviving a beautiful book with a heart as big as Louisiana itself.
Paul and Colette Thibodeaux are husband and wife at the very start of their marriage. Born and still living in the Deep South along the bayou, neither of them have ventured further than their little town of Tiger Island. The community is inward looking, small and timeless, and Colette is bored. She wants adventure and new things, and so sets out to California to discover something different. Paul eventually follows, and the narrative becomes a touching portrayal of two individuals trying to make sense of big city life.
Without giving too much away, this story has extremely emotional ups and downs, with a tense, testing build up to its happy, homely ending. FF&T weren’t wrong in choosing to publish this book for it’s sense of place. Gautreaux talks constantly and nostalgically about Cajun food, smells, sights and nights in bars. The bayou landscape is unique and all-encompassing, almost as hard to live in as the Thibodeauxs’ tenacious relationship. Thoroughly recommended.
Bookshops in Hay-on-Wye. A quick visit to Bath. Shot on Hasselblad 500cm. 120mm colour film.
My big sister and brother-in-law know me well. For my birthday last year they very kindly booked me in for a book spa at Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. With not much interest in real spas, the book spa had peaked my interest the first time I visited Mr. B’s a few years back. With the promise of a comfy seat, a cup of piping hot tea, a slice of homemade cake and a pile of recommended reading to take home… there was absolutely everything to look forward to!
Arriving at the shop for my spa I had a quick browse around before being taken up to the newly refurbished reading room, where my spa would be held. Quickly handed a fresh brew made just the way I like it and invited to make myself comfortable, I was in my element. The room was fab – deep green walls and cool chequered floorboards, as well as the odd cockatiel…
Soon I was introduced to my book spa companion – the lovely Lucinda who proceeded to ask me some vital reading questions to gauge my interest in literature. I’d already emailed over a list of favourite reads, which formed the basis of our discussions. We covered my day-to-day work, hobbies and interests, and even talked about some of the books that I really haven’t got along with (the latest being my failed Franzen attempt). I found out quite a bit about my reading habits just from having this quick chat. My penchant for female literature has grown a great deal over the past few months, with favourites including AM Homes for her snappy, witty dialogue; and Ruth Ozeki for her Eastern wisdom coupled with fantastical storytelling. These were used to help Lucinda pick some books she knew I’d love, as well as some that would take me a little bit out of my comfort zone. After our chat I was left alone with my chocolate brownie and a brew whilst Lucinda toured the bookshop in search of some future favourites.
Coming back with a pile of titles towering over her head, Lucinda proceeded to talk me through every title she had found for me. With a fantastic knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for every book recommended, it was so hard not to take home every single one. This was the most enjoyable part of the spa – and I’ve found that Lucinda’s way of storytelling has really stuck in my head. I was able to excitedly recite the plot of each book back to my partner when I got home to Manchester that evening.
After a lot of careful consideration, I came away with six shiny new reads. A pile on the chair in the reading room was begrudgingly left behind – but will be duly emailed to me so I know just where to head when I’ve finished the ones I took home. Overall, I had a fantastic hour at Mr. B’s, and would heartily recommend a book spa not only to those after a bit of literary pampering, but to those struck in a reading rut and looking for a little inspiration.
Books I took home:
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned – Wells Tower
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – Lydia Davis
All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews
The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng
That Old Ace in the Hole – Annie Proulx
The Next Step of the Dance – Tim Gatreaux