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Fish Feet

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

In Brief: Solidly-written story of a young man with an unconventional ambition; his mother's and later his father's support; his growing friendship with a ballerina, in spite of her brother's animosity; the girl's father's abuse of his family

Cover of Fish Feet

Author: Veronica Bennett

Publisher: Walker

Published in: 2002

Age Range: Young Teens+

Period: Contemporary

Genres:  Growing-Up


Characters:

  • Erik Shaw is a 15-year-old footballer / ballet dancer. He's loyal to his friendships and serious in making decisions even when they upset his own plans.
  • Richard Pacey is Erik's best friend, a footballer with little tolerance for anything which upsets him. He's very grateful to Erik when the Shaws take him in after his Dad is imprisoned.
  • Ruth Pacey, Richard's twin sister, is a ballet dancer whom Erik befriends and partners in ballet. She suffers from some form of depression which makes her difficult to be with at times.
  • Alfie Shaw, Erik's dad, is a self-made businessman who is initially dismissive of Erik's ambitions but who later supports them and forces Erik to look at them in a practical light.
  • Erik's mother, a former dancer, takes his side when his father won't and helps Erik's ballet teacher.
  • Olivia Perry teaches Ruth and takes on Erik when his own teacher is taken ill. She supports both Erik and Ruth in their ambitions to audition for the Royal Ballet.

Synopsis:

Erik Shaw is a 15-year-old footballer, ballet dancer and keen student. His ambition is to audition for the Royal Ballet School. When his regular teacher is taken ill, Erik discovers that his best friend's sister, Ruth, also learns ballet, and he joins her class at the same time deepening in his friendship with her as he finds himself distanced from his football-playing mates since he's sacrificed his place on the team to prepare for the audition.

Notes:

This book came out after Billy Elliott and one is tempted to see it as a bandwagon-jumper. But while the basic idea is the same, the setting and characters are different and the story stands on its own feet quite well. The story is one of an ordinary young man trying to succeed in his unconventional ambition, and who has to make some hard choices along the way concerning his other activities and the girl he finds himself attracted to.

There are different points of view on the subject of boys in dance, and in ballet in particular. This book portrays seriously those boys who take ballet, and the principal character in particular, as normal and healthy without any especial hangups. While there's obvious scope for sensuality in the descriptions, there's very little of the sort, merely on one occation a realisation by Erik that he's holding a girl's waist for the first time.

Erik has several difficult decisions to make throughout the course of the story, not least that of foregoing his place on the football team to concentrate on ballet, knowing that this would alienate him from his teammates. While he wobbles at one or two points, usually where Ruth's involved, he lucky to have support from several of the other characters, especially and surprisingly his Dad.

Erik's parents are an ordinary married couple. Ruth & Richard's own mother ran off when they were younger, and their father now lives with a younger woman to whom he is civilly married.

There are a couple of mildly violent scenes, one where Erik rescues Ruth from an older footballer who is trying to molest her, the other in the Pacey's home where their Dad loses his temper. We learn that Ruth & Richard's own mother had run away some years before, presumably because of their father's drink-induced violence, and he is taken away by the police when he assaults their step-mother towards the end of the book

Monday 14th July 2003