It is spring 1802 in London and Luke Greenhead, prodigal son of a Grasmere shepherd, has squandered away half his life. In despair he returns to his Lakeland birthplace in search of home and family. By the shores of Ullswater he stumbles upon wild daffodils at the same time as William Wordsworth and his devoted sister and muse, Dorothy (whose description of the flowers in her journal went on to inspire ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, one of the greatest poems ever written). Luke is enchanted, not only by the daffodils but by the strange, birdlike woman in their midst. When he attempts to woo Dorothy away from her overbearing brother a battle of forbidden love and tangled loyalties ensues, into which the whole of Grasmere is drawn. Dances with the Daffodils is set against the turbulent background of the Napoleonic wars, the rigours of drystone-walling on the fells at the height of enclosure, and the heady nature worship of Early Romantic poetry. The novel embellishes the real history of the Wordsworths’ early years in Dove Cottage, drawing especially from Wordsworth’s poetry and Dorothy’s journals. Beyond being a vivid and entertaining sketch on a unique time and place in English history – complete with the poets, thinkers and common folk who inhabited it – Dances with the Daffodils is a parable about the redemptive power of nature and remembered childhood.
Matthew Connolly was born in Manchester, UK, the son of teachers and the fifth of six children. After graduating he travelled, taught English in Milan and trained as a journalist in London. He worked for the London Evening Standard, the Guardian, the Observer, Classic FM, The Times (where he was a classical music critic) and The Sunday Times. He now lives in the English Lake District with his GP wife and two children, and is writing his second novel. He is a keen amateur musician and songwriter, and enjoys fell-running and wild-swimming.
"Amidst the plethora of writings about William Wordsworth's life, this book, I believe, would please the great man himself. It is a beautiful fictional recreation of Dorothy's life, her inspirational love of nature and her complicated emotions surrounding her fierce loyalty towards her brother ... The book is interwoven with poignant descriptions of the harshness of the social and economic climate at the height of enclosure when drystone walling advanced across the Lake District. The language and pace of writing is haunting and beautiful and the portrayal of the complex characters captivating. All this with a peppering of subtle humour thrown in. This is a book to read if you are travelling in the Lake District. I predict that those readers with a certain level of fitness will want to scamper up the closest mountain and those with a less robust constitution will be scanning the horizon for a suitable field of daffodils to dance in."
(review, English Lakes Hotels, 7 April 2014)
"It's like a photo album in words of some of the loveliest places in the Lake District."
(reader comment, 29 March 2014)
"This is a beautifully written novel. Populated with memorable, intriguing characters, it will have you turning pages and really caring about their fate. Equally funny and moving, it is a deeply entertaining read. It's also a poignant story about love, art and devotion, well-crafted and written with flair. Comes definitely recommended."
(Goodreads reader review, 25 March 2014)
"I enjoyed Dances with the Daffodils. I have since let several of my fellow librarians read it and they also enjoyed it."
(Goodreads reader comment, 11 March 2014)
"I loved this book and so did my mother-in-law. Buy it. Read it. Give it to your friends."
(Amazon UK customer review, 6 March 2014)
"Not a simple tale of love amongst the daffodils, instead we get a moving insight of the hardships and traumas visited upon the poor and displaced rural workers; a convincing portrayal of family life and a series of secrets and revelations. Whilst some of the emotive description in the early part of the novel may be considered a little over-written, the representation of the lives of his rural characters is beautifully restrained and, finally, compelling. I thoroughly recommend this novel as an addition to the Wordsworth myth and as an exploration of Romantic masculine sensibility."
(Amazon UK customer review, 6 March 2014)
"Enjoying it immensely! The novel creates a vivid picture of Lakeland life in the early 19th century and the rich language and writing style successfully transport the reader to that era. As someone who enjoys a good read - thank you!"
(UK reader, 6 March 2014)
"I devoured the book and loved both of the [main] characters."
(UK reader, 23 February 2014)
"I am thoroughly enjoying this wonderfully playful book. It's a true delight for any Wordsworthian keen on spotting all the familiar people and poems. I love the dialogue and there are some really acute touches of social history."
(Professor of English, University of Oxford, Feb 2014)
"A delightful read and a real page turner that transported me to how I imagined Grasmere and the Lake District to be all those years ago. The detailed research, the use of words to create literary colours as well as the poetic yet subtle style of writing brought the whole Lake District to life and highlighted the difficulties the protagonists faced. I loved it. Will there be a sequel? Anyone I can recommend the book to I will, as it would be a shame for people not to know about it and enjoy it."
(UK reader, 15 January 2014)
"This is an absolutely beautiful book, I loved it ... Connolly's lovely use of language and his wordsmithery, whilst it flashes like little diamonds through the prose, never seeks to compete with or outshine a very well-told story or the memorable and well-drawn characters. This is a proper, classic novel. It's Hardy and Bronte and Du Maurier and Dickens all rolled into one."
(Amazon UK customer review, 10 January 2014)
"Dances with the Daffodils brightened up my Christmas."
(Novelist and senior lecturer in creative writing, University of Lancaster,
7 Jan 2014)
"Connolly's beautiful use of the English language and his phenomenal ability to engage the reader's heart with the hearts of the characters he portrays made Dances with the Daffodils one of those novels that gripped me from start to finish."
(Amazon UK customer review, 5 January 2014)
“From the start we know we are in the hands of a master story-teller… What makes all of Matthew Connolly's characters so convincing is that they are rounded, multi-faceted beings ... In a word they are human, and so expertly drawn that we see them as living and breathing actors in life's great drama… The author's research is impeccable … and his descriptive language is second to none. With a few deft touches he can paint a picture of the rugged, unforgiving landscape, or bring a scene into vivid focus … Put your feet up and immerse yourself in this novel; you won't be disappointed.”
(Amazon UK customer review, 7 December 2013)
"I have just finished reading Dances with Daffodils, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a great page-turner, a brilliant achievement, and I was quite sorry when I got to the end!"
(UK reader, 3 December 2013)
"This is one of the best novels I have ever read. It is a tale of tragedy, romance, redemption and endurance. The characters are complex, independent, haunting and inspiring. And very very human. Connolly has a brilliant descriptive talent that brings the scenes and situations to life and the linguistic accents from the Lake District reverberate off the page. It just works on so many levels. I loved it." [FIVE STARS]
(Goodreads review, US reader, 1 December 2013)
"A new classic: If you love Dickens, Hardy, Thackeray and Bronte, the Lake District or Wordsworth you will enjoy this. I look forward to reading Matthew's next book." [FIVE STARS]
(Amazon UK customer review, 11 November 2013)
"The story itself is utterly compelling and it is beautifully written, often mimicking the physical landscape on which it is set. Matthew Connolly's subtle humour and clever use of language has left me eagerly anticipating his next novel." [FIVE STARS]
(Amazon UK customer review, 5 November 2013)
"Fantastic achievement. Really enjoyed it."
(Caz Graham, BBC Radio 4 presenter, 3 October 2013)
(Leading UK literary agent, 17 September 2013)
"Classy romantic stuff ... and genuinely poetic." [FOUR STARS]
(Goodreads, September 2013)
"I was captivated by this refreshingly different novel. The storyline itself is fascinating and hugely enhanced by the author's skilful and sensitive description of the various interpersonal relationships. The novel is also enriched by the author's deep knowledge of the Lake District and of course the mysteries of Dove Cottage, William and Dorothy. Luke's internal turmoils are poignantly portrayed and the rather harsh and unforgiving Lake District climate and culture." [FIVE STARS]
"If you enjoy rich historical detail, a tangled love story and epic scenery, you'll love this book. To read Dances with the Daffodils is to wake up inside a Wordsworth poem, with your senses flooded by the sights, sounds and smells of the early 1800's." [FIVE STARS]
"A masterpiece of literature! The man is a wordsmith of the highest calibre, and is surely destined for a long, distinguished writing career!" [FIVE STARS]
"Beautiful, evocative, captivating. Adored it."
(UK reader, Kindle, 2 September 2013)
"Set to become a classic, hold on to your copy!"
(Amazon US, 26 August 2013)
"This [novel] is set in a period close enough to modern times but where social mores and ideas are quite different. Writing is lucid and really transports one into the era." [FIVE STARS]
(Amazon US customer review, 9 August 2013)
"Connolly evokes the characters, atmosphere and scenery of the Wordsworths' Lakeland with such rich detail, playful wit and fervent passion that the reader is left itching to dash out through the door of imagination, throw on his boots, and stride up across the fells Connolly so exuberantly describes." [FIVE STARS]
(Amazon customer review, UK, 25 August 2013)
"Beautifully written, in the style of the classics. Full of memorable and well-developed characters ..." [FOUR STARS]
(Goodreads reader review [Australia], paperback, 10 August 2013)
"I really loved this book. I feel a bit lost now I have finished it. [The novel] highlighted not just the majesty of the mountains but the reality of daily injustice and hardship for the poor. The story raced along and towards the end - the twists and turns kept me spellbound. I can't wait to read the next book by Matthew Connolly." [FIVE STARS]
(Amazon UK reader, paperback, 8 August 2013)
"If you have ever been walking in the Lake District and idly wondered what it might have been like to live there in the early nineteenth century, Matthew Connolly's novel does the work for you: it fleshes out a rich variety of engaging characters, lovingly recreates the seasons and beautiful landscapes, very satisfyingly frames the historical moment, and carries you through with a deeply humane story." [FIVE STARS]
(UK reader, paperback, 4 August 2013)
"I just finished the novel Dances with the Daffodils by Matthew Connolly. This is a GREAT novel - I totally recommend it. Connolly's writing is spectacular. I hope he gets critical attention - he deserves it for this masterpiece." [FIVE STARS]
(US reader, Kindle, 25 July 2013)
"Wonderfully atmospheric and vivid writing, full of choice detail that makes the characters and era spring to life." [FOUR STARS]
(Goodreads reader review, paperback, 23 July 2013)
"Highly descriptive ... characters very believable ... excellent dialogue ... surprising twists and turns. Perfect read for a Lake District trip." [FOUR STARS]
(UK reader, Kindle, 23 July 2013)
"I really liked this book, it's different to a lot of fiction out there at the moment and had a feel-good factor about it that lots of books fail to achieve ... Lots of mixing of facts and fiction and a real genuinely unusual read make this a good read for sitting in the back garden enjoying sun, life and a good book!" [FIVE STARS]
(Goodreads reader review, paperback, 23 July 2013)
"I feel as if I have discovered a long-lost Thomas Hardy manuscript. Are we witnessing what, in the future, will be looked on as a classic?" [FIVE STARS]
(Goodreads reader comment, paperback, July 2013)
"I've read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's going to be my book group's September book."
(UK reader, paperback, 19 July 2013)
"I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but Reverend Snaile did not come out of it too well!"
(member of the clergy, paperback, 16 July 2013)
"Cold Comfort Farm is in my top ten, all time, favourite novels and I have the pleasurable task now to revisit that list to decide which book to relegate in order to add Dances With The Daffodils by Matthew Connolly. My first edition signed paperback will end up nowhere except on the pile of books that I find most precious, on my bedside table." [FIVE STARS]
(Goodreads review, paperback, 15 July 2013)
"I finished Dances with the Daffodils this week and feel a lot of excitement about [the author's] skills. It made me think and reflect on life."
(UK reader, paperback, 12 July 2013)
"I received this book today, and I have to say, the production is excellent quality. The cover reminds me of the Vintage covers produced by Random House."
(managing editor of London literary consultancy, 3 July 2013)
"Just finished the book ... and I loved it!"
(UK reader, paperback, 30 June 2013)
"The power-hungry baronet [in this book] has lower urinary tract symptoms consistent with bladder outflow obstruction."
(doctor, UK reader, paperback, 29 June 2013)
"Suffice to say I am impressed and delighted."
(UK reader, paperback, 28 June 2013)
"I'm reading Dances with the Daffodils at lunchtimes and Bring up the Bodies at night. Hilary Mantel would be flattered to hear she is in such company."
(UK reader, paperback, 27 June 2013)
"I'm really enjoying the book. It is moving and witty."
(UK reader, paperback, 27 June 2013)
"It's the best looking self-published book we've seen. The paper quality is good, the cover is excellent, all the typography and spacing have been done to a really high standard."
(publishing industry executive, London, 26 June 2013)
"A dazzling new talent! An exciting new voice has emerged in English literature. Page after page of beautiful prose, wit and bold invention. I urge you to read this book." [FIVE STARS]
(Amazon UK reader, paperback, 4 June 2013)