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The Ballerinas–a milieu of striving

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The Ballerinas

by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

There is something to be said for a book that takes a reader through a whole gamut of emotions and reactions. The Ballerinas was that book for me. I have loved ballet since I was in second grade and started taking dance lessons. I grew up reading dancer biographies and as an adult watching the TV show Fame and various dance movies. I thought I knew how difficult being truly dedicated to becoming a dancer is. The Ballerinas reinforced my beliefs about dancer education but also took my understanding to a whole new level.

I didn’t really like the way the author told the story going back and forth between the younger versions of Delfine, Lindsay, and Margaux, the main characters, and the same dancers as adults. Although the month and year are spelled out for each part of the narration, the storyline jumps back and forth. I imagine this was partly done because of some secrets the author was holding back to create tension and chose to gradually reveal them. Nevertheless, I found this style somewhat distracting and confusing.

I did not like the characters in the first part of the book. I came to like them more as their motivations were gradually revealed, but I never really empathized with any of them. Delphine is the narrator. The story is told from her point of view, and the reader learns most about her. She does grow and change, but it is a difficult and uncomfortable journey for Delphine and for the reader.

As the story is told, it is obvious that something happened that changed the dynamic between the friends. The hints become stronger as the book progresses. Other areas of conflict rise to the surface towards the end of the book and burst through in tense scenes of dramatic confrontation.

The themes of the book also ebb and flow. Some are strictly focused on ballet. Others examine the power struggle between men and women and how people use each other with their focus on themselves. Trust, reliability, friendship, and striving to reach goals are among the themes. I ponder the handling of forgiveness in this novel. There are some major events and issues that should have been addressed. They were not explored by the characters as much as would have been necessary for actual forgiveness to occur; that glossing over and moving on did not seem realistic to me. I wanted to like this book more than I did; I admit I was fascinated by the storyline towards the end of the book and the resolution was surprising.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 3/5

Category: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Notes: The text is replete with “f… bombs.”

Publication: December 7, 2021—St. Martin’s Press

Memorable Lines:

I’d thought that I’d escaped our shared history by moving to Russia. I thought that I’d separated myself from the ghosts of my past. And yet here we were, pulling apart and coming back together in infinite variations, like a kaleidoscope, a courtly dance that never ended.

“I love you,” I whispered to him on the banks of the sparkling Neva, as we stared up at the gold domes of the city. And he kissed me fiercely, hungrily, until I could almost forget he didn’t say it too.

“Everything good is risky,” she said. “The thing that you have to remember is that if you don’t risk anything, you risk everything.”


  1. Gretchen says:

    I have loved ballet since I started taking it as a girl, too! I also loved watching Fame. I remember reading something about this book and being intrigued, but after reading more about it realized I probably wouldn’t like it. Your review confirms I made the right decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WendyW says:

    I read this about a year ago, and I remember it being intense. I’m glad you enjoyed it overall. I love stories about ballerina’s but was never a dancer like you, Linda.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t like books that bounce back and forth from past to present, I agree, they are too confusing and as a reader I spend more time trying to figure out what time it is than on the story!

    Liked by 1 person

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