The Colours of the Dance won the 2016 First Novel Prize and was listed in the Fish, Flash 500, Mslexia and Yeovil competitions.
E. J. Pepper's second book, Flight Path, won the 2017 Exeter Novel Prize and is due for publication in 2020.
She is currently working on her third novel.
The first novel by PJ Pepper won her the award, and rightly so. This interesting historical fiction is set in 1880s in Ulster which was the place where Protestants and Catholics did not have friendly feelings towards one another, and where Catholics were deprived of any recognition. The proposal of Home Rule that would give the Catholics some rights, was very much opposed by the Protestants. Those turbulent times are the background for the events in which two main characters are Kate and her sister's daughter, Brede.
Kate O'Hagan and her niece, who are Catholics, are lucky to find employment in a Protestant house after a long time of hunger and homelessness. Brede, a 10-year-old girl, has not been able to speak since a most traumatic experience. She is the narrator, and a most observant one, and her interpretation of events is the core of the story. I think Ms Pepper captured wonderfully the way a child sees the world and what she conclusions she comes to, and created a character I truly came to like. Brede is a girl who has come through moments that children should be spared and has to work hard, and yet she can find little joys around her. Dancing is her joy, she practises the steps, and I think for her dance is what connects her with her past and family, the immaterial heritage she received.
The historical background made me look up some information as although I know a little about the Glorious Revolution and King Billy, of Home Rule I had a rather vague idea.
by Beata B.
The word ‘dance’ appears to be used in several ways within this evocative 19th century historical novel based upon the Irish fight for independence from Britain. Set in Ireland at a time of landed gentry and tenant farmers and when the ‘Prods’ and ‘Carth Licks’ were fighting each other, along with the British, comes a little girl, the gentle Brede – who is about 9 or 10 or maybe even 11 years old, but no one really knows.
Brede is left orphaned when she witnesses first the death of her siblings and then her parents, of fevers and dysentery. Left alone in the world she is taken care of by her Aunt Kate and together they walk through Ireland trying to survive until finally they are taken in and employed in one of the large house by Mister and Missus Henderson as cook.
Although, they are well liked within the house, life is not without it’s problems as they are often frightened of being turned out into the streets, yet again. This is due in part to them being ‘Carth Licks’ and some people’s dislike of ‘the Carth licks’.
Because of Brede’s past experiences, she is unable to speak, she can hear the words in her head and wants to speak, but the words just won’t come out. Not being able to speak or read or write, she is unable to ask for clarification from others around her of what is going on or what a certain words means, and she often misunderstands what is happening, which brings a lightness to the book and a slight sense of humour. As adults we no longer see the world in the same way as a child does and presume, sometimes incorrectly that what we say is fully understood, but it isn’t always, and Brede often finds herself confused about the world around her. The one thing that Brede loves to do is her ‘steps’ or dancing the Irish reels with Kate.
The dance of life within the book is witnessed through the eyes of a young child, which makes more enjoyable and lighter. Yes the historical back ground is there, but Brede takes you on a dance through the story all of her own. However, if you are looking for a book of Irish history, this isn’t it, but is about life.
I picked this book because of the cover, as i so often do when i am browsing books in a store, but i enjoyed the story too.
I loved this book from start to finish. Historical fiction is my favourite genre but I haven’t read too much about Ireland’s history; this novel gave me insight into the history but also the lives of the people living through this period. I especially enjoyed the facts provided at the end to consolidate the information touched upon. That said, it is the story itself, and in particular the narration, that carried me through: I loved Brede’s narration - a child’s viewpoint on the serious and not-so-serious aspects of their life that was at times heart wrenching, at others heartwarming, but endlessly comical. The ending for me let the story down somewhat - it seems I’m becoming a sucker for a happy ending (which in my opinion this was not) but I also felt it was a bit rushed and confusing. Otherwise this was a solid 4 star, well written read, with moving characters, covering a very important period of history. It has inspired me to read more novels based on this era.
I haven't read many books that deal with the relationship between Catholics and protestants in 1800's Ireland. I found this book to be very interesting and a great historical fiction. I would reccomend it.
This was one of a kind historical fiction for me. I really enjoyed reading it. When the proposal of Home Rule was set forward there was a lot of protest from the Protestants. The Home Rule was supposed to give some rights to the Catholics.
The main characters of the story are Kate and Her niece Brede. Brede is left orphaned after the death of all her family members and hence Kate takes her into her shade. Because of her tragic experiences, Brede is now unable to speak. She is the narrator of the story. They find employment under one of the supporters house, Mister and Missus Hendersons. Though they are liked and loved by all in the house, they always fear of being thrown out on the streets on account of being Catholics. The rest of the story is her interpretation of the happenings surrounding her, her life as she and her aunt struggled to survive and her immense love for dance!
This is a beautiful read!
Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genre. So it was really interesting to read, especially as this was a tale of the catholic and protestant. And Brede the main protagonist who narrates how she had to survive.
There are many things I like about this book! One, is the unique narration of seeing everything through a child’s eyes, specifically the dark and disturbing things that she shouldn’t have to be dealing with at that age (11/12). The reader gets to see how Brede makes sense of everything through her confusion and sadness. This book is set in 1855/56 and it deals heavily with the relationship between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland during this time.
I was all set to give this 3.5 stars, maybe 4, because I really enjoyed the perspective and how the plot was escalating. However, this book has no falling action with which to satisfy the reader. It slowly builds and then ends very abruptly, which I was not a fan of. It seems like a “part one.” I also did not understand why the author chose to have Brede not be able to speak till the very last minute of the book. I would understand if she started talking part way through, but the continuity of this plot line left me very unsatisfied and frustrated. Overall, I would recommend this book to someone interested in the historical time period, but not if you want something action-filled.
Absolutely beautiful historical read. Brede is our young 10 year old narrator, who cannot speak. She lost her parents at a young age and is reliant on her Aunt Kate. They find work in the Henderson's household kitchen. Throughout the book Brede is witness to many terrible scenes, she is unable to tell anyone leaving both herself and the reader frustrated. Within the Henderson household we feel and see the tension building from politics and religion of the time. I loved this book and will be recommending it to other bookworms.
I love the historical fiction genre anyway but I particularly enjoyed this read as the quest of the Irish for Home Rule, Independence and then the Irish Civil war are all part of the history curriculum I teach so it was very interesting to read about it in the historical fiction genre. This was well written and it wove together well the plight of Kate and her niece Brede as they feared losing their home and their employment because of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. While the book isn't rich in factual information about the different conflicts during these eras of Irish history I relished the book and hungrily read to the end. Others however might find themselves a little lost as I'm sure Irish history and our plight to free ourselves of British rule for over 700 years is not common curricular material anywhere except in Ireland. This was an enjoyable read though and highlights how many poor Catholics suffered during this era.
E. J. Pepper grew up in Worcestershire and County Donegal.
She studied English language and literature at London University and has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Chichester University.
She lives with her husband on the Surrey/Sussex border.