Title: The Ballerinas
Author: Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: December 7th, 2021
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.
Fourteen 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, 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.
Whatever I thought I was going to get from this book is not what I actually got. And for once, I don’t particularly mean that as a compliment. The Ballerinas had all of the drama I was expecting as the dance world is known for it’s ruthlessness and the strain it places on the girls. But what I didn’t expect was not liking any of the characters. At all.
Told in alternating timelines from the POV of Delphine, we get the story of her and her two best friends, Margauz and Lindsay, as they navigate their years with the Paris Opera Ballet. The present day timeline is the women at 35-36 as they are in their careers in dance and the flashbacks start at 9 years old and eventually catches up to present day. Delphine is not a choreographer after quitting the company to move to St. Petersburg to be with her boyfriend who ended up cheating on her, causing her to move back to Paris to start her choreography career.
I had the absolute hardest time getting invested in this book. I think the timelines alternated too quickly for me to keep up with or get invested in either storyline version of Delphine. I just… wow did not like her. Yes, I’m sure she’s written in this way purposefully, but I don’t find anything redeemable about her except the decision she made regarding Jock. All of the characters were extremely flawed (again, pretty sure that’s the point) but in a way that I could not relate to or get on board with. Nothing captured my attention about this book and it was a slog to get through.
But if you find yourself really drawn to the ballet, if you loved the Black Swan movie, and if you jam out to alternating timelines, this book will be for you. It wasn’t for me, but my 3 stars is someone else’s 5 stars.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
Happy reading, folks!