Winner, 2021 IPPY Bronze Medal for Canada-East Best Regional Fiction.
Precocious ten-year-old Vanessa Dudley-Morris knows lots of secrets. In 1949 when she and her family are forced to move into two rooms on the second floor of 519 Jarvis Street in Toronto, a genteel but somewhat rundown rooming house owned by a reclusive pianist, she learns a lot more.
Despite the family's drastically reduced circumstances, her parents struggle to keep up their old standards. Threatened by blindness due to an eye condition, Vanessa is kept at home, tutored by an erratic succession of eccentrics, some with questionable credentials. Consequently, she spends a lot of time alone, wandering the dim corridors of the old house, silently listening at doors and watching the odd characters who live there. She becomes fascinated by a mother and son who move into a room on the third floor. Eventually she agrees to take secret notes from the son to his mysterious friend at her church, unwittingly unleashing a chain of events that leads to tragedy.
"Caro Soles's book is an extraordinary piece of fiction. Haunting, and highly evocative, it deserves to find its place in the pantheon of the best of Canadian Literature."
?Maureen Jennngs, Award winning author of the Murdock Mysteries and several other series
"Author Caro Soles takes us on a captivating trip through late-1940s Toronto, its afternoon teas and general propriety, revealing a story rich in character and local colour. Our guide is young Vanessa, whose astute observations of her genteel family and the oddball tenants of a downtown rooming house keep the pages turning with hints of calamity to come. Great (and often witty) writing, love of music and a wonderful sense of time and place mark this enjoyable novel."
?Carole Giangrande, author of The Tender Birds and All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
"Quirky, funny and haunting."
?Linwood Barclay, NYT bestselling author
"Intimate, evocative and memorable, Caro Soles's Dancing with Chairs in the Music House holds the reader spellbound from its opening sentence?It's 1949, a brand new year, and we're moving. Again.?to its heart-stopping conclusion. Vanessa Dudley-Morris, the novel's engaging ten-year-old narrator, kept from school by an eye condition that threatens blindness, is free to roam her new home, a rundown rooming house at 519 Jarvis Street. Vanessa is a keen observer of her world and through her, Soles gives us accurate and incisive portraits of Toronto and her citizens at mid-twentieth century. Remembering the way we were then is a gift, but the greatest gift in Soles's novel is her characterization of Vanessa. Like Henry James, Caro Soles is able to capture in words the experience of what it feels like to be growing inside."
?Gail Bowen, award-winning author of the Joanne Kilbourne Series