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Another one from the Ibbotson sausage romance factory. They are all exactly the same, of course, but that doesn't stop me enjoying them. I particularly love the theatrical ones - in this, the heroine, a don's daughter, runs away to Brazil with a ballet company. Awesome. There she meets the standard charismatic cadet of some minor aristocratic family, and it's all a bit yada yada from there, but the ballet bits are good.

Light-hearted, though not dismissing the competitiveness and pain of the stage. Also surprisingly relaxed about sex, which was a nice surprise. I would have much preferred this had it ended with Harriet being a great dancer and a kept woman, but you can't have everything. I hold high hopes for Natasha.

You know, what I would really like (having moved straight from the last book to this one) would be the story of Eugénie Danglars and Louise d'Armilly, told from Louise's point of view by Eva Ibbotson. I think I might have to write it myself.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A book about being a geisha written by a geisha - the reality is, it seems a lot more interesting and a lot less titillating than one would imagine from having read the blurbs on books about being a geisha written by people who aren't geishas. For a start, the word 'geisha' (artist) itself isn't used much; Iwasaki prfers 'geiko' (woman of art) or 'maiko' (woman of dance), according to age.

And actually, this is as much about dance as it is about anything, dance and the dancer's passion for her work, her frustration with a rigid system, and a detailed (but not heavy-handed) description of the industry in general. (Because it is an industry, supporting probably thousands of people.) I found it absolutely fascinating. I couldn't help comparing it to Shanghai Tango, which I read a while back; both deal honestly with the tension between innovation and tradition, not to mention the sheer hard work.

Iwasaki addresses with commendable restraint the (erroneous) assumption that geisha are sex workers, highlighting the areas where confusion may arise, but firmly rebuffing the notion that a necessarily equals b. I would likely have been much more vehement about it.

Oh yes, and I was much amused by which member of the British Royal Family evoked the most authorial approval. You wouldn't have thought it, would you?

One minor niggle: I really could have done with a glossary. Iwasaki is very good at defining her terms when they first come up, but I tend to find that once isn't enough for me, and I kept having to flip back to where I thought the term had been introduced, only to find that I'd misremembered.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Very obviously by the author of "A Dream of Sadler's Wells" &c, and concerned with much the same themes - Northumbria, dancing (ballet and Spanish), clergymen's children, horses, money troubles. Rather less plausible than the Sadler's Wells series, I thought, though it may just be that I'm coming to this at the age of 26 and with a rather more critical eye.

Annette and Max Dancy are brother and sister, obsessed with dancing to the exclusion of pretty much everything else (including their mother, or so it seems to me). The focus of this book is on Annette's dancing (classical ballet) and her mission to go to London, to the Royal Ballet School. Since I found her a spoilt and careless child, and since the challenges that she faces are not particularly exciting, I didn't much care.

On the whole I prefer Noel Streatfeild for my ballet stories. Her characters are more likely (even when they're unlikely, they're more entertaining). Also, Hill's snobbery is outrageous.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Or, originally, Robert des Noms Propres - one loses the double meaning in the translation.

Plectrude, orphaned by her father's murder (by her mother) and her mother's subsequent suicide, is brought up by her aunt and uncle as their own. She is an unusual child, developing skills only when she sees fit, imaginative and idealistic, but not immune to reality.

I wasn't convinced by the final twist - it seemed rather pointless to me.

This is a quick read, one sitting for me, rather surreal, humorous but poignant, with a fairy-tale feel. It queries assumptions about beauty, about talent, about intelligence and about identity. Possibly triggery for eating disorders, I would think.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I used to be very into ballet stories, not so much because I was keen on ballet, but because they tended to be about people knowing what they wanted, and getting it. Though this is a true story, it's no exception. Firstly, it's about Jin Xing's ambition to be China's greatest dancer. Secondly, it's about her identity as, and journey to become, a woman. Two interlinked destinations, and a route that takes in the People's Liberation Army, Korea, America, Rome, and Belgium, an array of lovers, and a (mostly) supportive family.

I enjoyed this one a lot; one gets a real sense of the force of Jin Xing's personality, and it's interesting from the dance perspective, too. My only complaint is that some all but insurmountable challenges get passed over in a couple of sentences, and I would really like to know more about some of them.


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June 2013

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