Dare Me meets Black Swan and Luckiest Girl Alive in a captivating, voice-driven debut novel about a trio of ballerinas who meet as students at the Paris Opera Ballet School.
Thirteen years ago, Delphine abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux. Now 36 years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and to the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House, to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career––and, she hopes, finally make things right with her former friends. But Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed while she’s been away…and some secrets can’t stay buried forever.
Moving between the trio’s adolescent years and the present day, Rachel Kapelke-Dale’s The Ballerinas explores the complexities of female friendship, the dark drive towards physical perfection in the name of artistic expression, the double-edged sword of ambition and passion, and the sublimated rage that so many women hold inside––all culminating in a twist you won’t see coming, with magnetic characters you won’t soon forget.
What I Enjoyed
The Ballerinas by is a riveting look inside the minds of professional ballerinas with a surprising thriller twist at the end.
The main character tells the story through first-person narration giving it an immersive, almost atmospheric, quality that brings you into the fold and makes you feel like a sister dancer. I enjoyed that inner look that feels as authentic as any memoir, even though it is a work of fiction. Ballet has always been Delphine’s life, and she tells her tale along with her two best friends’ story with a sincerity only another dancer can achieve. There is almost a matter-of-fact-ness in her recounting that led me to believe she is a reliable narrator.
I also enjoyed the dual timeline, which is never confusing and alternates between the past and the present, so I felt I was getting the whole story. I found the past sections particularly compelling, as a young dancer’s life is full of genuine suspense that comes with the challenges of youth in a competitive world.
I loved the themes of friendship and sisterhood that permeated the story from beginning to end. This story is told from one perspective, but it encompasses all three friends’ thoughts and feelings. They are very much sisters in ballet and just like biological sisters as they fight and love each other with equal ferocity, and I never doubted that when push came to shove, they would have each other’s back.
This story is tough to classify into one genre. It has a lot of very slow-burn psychological thriller attributes but could be considered a strong women’s fiction story with a few thrilling twists and turns. But either way you look at it, it is a strong voice/character-driven story that brings you into the world of ballet and holds you there utterly spellbound.
What I Wish
The pace could be relatively slow at times, even though first-person narration, in general, tends to read quickly. I wish the pace stayed at a medium to fast pace rather than the slow to medium I experienced. Though the story riveted me, the pace had my mind wandering from time to time.
The Ballerinas is the story of three ballerinas in the Paris Ballet:
Delphine Leger, the narrator, is the daughter of famous ballet dancer Isabelle Durand. Her father has another family in the United States, and when her mother found out, she threw him out permanently. He did not have a role in Delphine’s life of any note after that day.
Margaux had been Delphine’s best friend since they had begun Paris Ballet’s school as young girls. They roomed together and danced together for as long as either of them could remember. And, they were at the top of their class together.
Lindsay came to the Paris Ballet somewhat late in the game, at 12-13. She was from the US and an incredible dancer and beauty. She became friends with Delphine and Margaux, and the pair became a threesome that nothing could divide.
Reminds Me Of
The story reminds me of the behind-the-scenes docudramas I have seen about the world of ballet and its dancers. The description compares it to Dare Me, Black Swan, and Luckiest Girl Alive, but I’m not familiar with any of these references to determine if the comparison is valid.
To Read or Not to Read
If you are intrigued by the world of ballet, this is a story you will not want to miss.