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The Ballerinas    by Rachel Kapelke-Dale order for
by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Rachel Kapelke-Dale's The Ballerinas moves back and forth in time to follow the relationships, successes and failures, of a trio of ballerinas (Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux) who came up through the ranks of the Paris Opera Ballet together. As in many such novels, dark secrets at the heart of the story are very gradually revealed.

As the novel opens in the present day, a thirty-six year old Delphine returns to the Palais Garnier Opera House as a choreographer. For the previous thirteen years, she'd been in St. Petersburg, working as an assistant to her lover, Dmitri. Delphine's mother was a ballet star, and she grew up in that world. She 'danced in sixty-four performances of Swan Lake, forty-three Nutcrackers, twenty-six La Sylphides.'

Back in 1995, readers see close friendship develop between ballet students Delphine, Margaux and Lindsay - Lindsay was the best ballerina by far, though all three had talent. Fast forward to 2018 when Delphine plans a ballet about Russia's last Tsarina. She wants to cast Lindsay as the star (it's clear she feels guilt about past actions and hopes to make amends) but the company's artistic director disagrees.

The puzzle of what happened in the past (what was done to and by Delphine) pulls reader interest through the story, along with the atmosphere and intricacies of the world of ballet. It's the center of these young women's lives - and ambitions - taking precedence over all else. The Ballerinas is ultimately about all aspects of female friendship, but also about men who abuse their power over women. It's well worth the read.

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