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Waltzes I Have Not Forgotten
by Bernadette Gabay Dyer

Category: Fiction / General
218 pages; ISBN: 0889614431

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Norman Goldman


Author Bernadette Gabay Dyer offers us a novel about a young man conceived out of a rape between a Black woman and a white man in Jamaica, West Indies.

John Moneague, who is at the center of Dyer’s novel, Waltzes I Have Not Forgotten, recounts his life story from the moment he is born in the back streets of Kingston, Jamaica at the turn of the last century and the subsequent stages of his life.
As he states in his introduction, history will recount the earthquakes and hurricanes that occurred in Jamaica, “but it will not record the riveting circumstances of my birth, in the back streets of Kingston, or my subsequent life.”

After his mother is murdered, John comes under the guardianship of a Chinese woman, Madam Hung Chin, where John learns to speak Hakka, a Chinese dialect.
Sadly, Madame Chin dies and John moves in with an American woman, Fiona Shaw, who makes sure that John receives a proper education.

Unfortunately, Ms. Shaw is obliged to return to the USA, and John becomes the adopted son of Jewish couple, the Meitners, although his adoption was never legally formalized.
While living with the Meitners, John becomes embroiled in the Meitners’ noble cause of saving European Jewry from the terrible hardships they had been incurring prior to and up to the holocaust. Eventually, the Meitners are obliged to leave Jamaica for London, England with John and members of their household. Once in England, the Meitners continue carrying out their heroic and clandestine work.

One of the principal difficulties encountered by many writers transcending genre is adapting to a new literary environment.
Dyer is best known for her short-fiction, playwriting and poetry skills. This is Dyer’s first novel, and although she has a knack of telling a good story, I did detect some weaknesses in fully developing her characters and story.
At times, I felt that there was a lack of good drama, particularly the scenes where the principal protagonist was carrying out some very dangerous tasks. I also felt that the struggles of the supporting characters as well as the main protagonist were not as vivid as they should have been.

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