by Eva Stachniak
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Page Count: 412
Release Date: Jan 17, 2017
Format: Trade Paperback ARC
How got: ARC GoodReads giveaway
First attention getter: obscure female historical figure protagonist
The passionate, sweeping story of Bronia, an extraordinary ballerina forever in the shadow of the legendary Nijinsky--Russia's greatest dancer and her older brother.
Born on the road to dancer parents, the Nijinsky children seem destined for the stage. Vaslav is an early prodigy, and through single-minded pursuit will grow into arguably the greatest--and most infamous--Russian ballet dancer of the 20th century. His talented younger sister Bronia, however, also longs to dance. Overshadowed by Vaslav, plagued by a body deemed less than ideal and struggling against the constraints of her gender, Bronia will have to work triply hard to prove herself worthy.
Bronia's stunning discipline and mesmerizing talent will eventually elevate her to the highest stage in Russia: the prestigious, old-world Mariinsky Ballet. But as the First World War rages, revolution sparks in Russia. In her politics, love life and career, Bronia will be forced to confront the choice between old and new; traditional and groundbreaking; safe and passionate.
Through gorgeous and graceful prose, readers will be swept from St. Petersburg and Kiev to London and Paris and plunged into the tumultuous world of modern art. Against the fascinating and tragic backdrop of early 20th century Europe, and surrounded by legends like Anna Pavlova, Coco Chanel, Serge Diaghilev and Pablo Picasso, Bronia must come into her own--as a dancer, mother and revolutionary--in a world that only wishes to see her fall.
Star Rating - 3
This novel took me forever to finish. First receiving it earlier this year and starting it in September, I’m only now just finishing it. So many times I’d start and get further, only to get bored and want to move on to other projects. I found enjoyment in our main character and her life‘s journey. The author also does a great job in description. However, she let some aspects overweight others to the detriment of her overall work.
Bronia shines as the bright star to Stachniak’s work. Her resilience and finding her own art within the rigid structures of the classical Russian ballet world makes her a figure to be admired. She doesn’t let others dictate to her; she finds herself no matter what. She also faces an uncertain time with a spine of iron and a deep well of courage. Having to flee multiple times an ever dangerous European landscape in the first half of the 20th century, she always finds a way to build her life a new, even in the face of familial pressures with mental illness and finding herself professionally.
Stachniak also has a talent when it comes to description. Her scenes put you right into the story with rich descriptions of classical ballet schools, the intricate details behind the scenes of ballet productions, and all that goes into actually getting hired into ballet companies or launching one’s own. Yet, this is also a downfall. I’ve seen other reviewers make this point, and they’re correct. At times, the author tends to be TOO descriptive to the disadvantage of her narrative.
To me, the biggest drawback is the authors writing style and her overuse of the descriptive paragraphs. Yeah, I love a lot of description in my historical settings; however, the way Stachniak incorporated hers doesn’t work well. When you’ve got paragraph after paragraph of description, down to the tiniest detail, I personally felt drowned in imagery. She also tends to run lyrical and poetic in her phrasing. While that writing style works with some readers, for me, I felt lost when her prose ran to such. That combined with an imbalance of description versus dialogue ran me sour on this title. This is the biggest reason why it took me so long to read this.
It’s this last detail that unfortunately leaves the most impression with me. It’s the reason it took me three months to get through this one. Yet, I loved Bronia to death; her journey and growth as a woman is what makes this book. The unique historical background and the author’s abilities with description also were superb. Ultimately, though, this book was a slog through with too abundant of those descriptive paragraphs back to back and too much poetic language. This book might please others, but it didn’t do it for my palate.
Note: Book received for free via Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.