Book Reviews

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

A tremendous thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Rachel Kapelke-Dale for my ARC of The Ballerinas. The Ballerinas publishes on December 7, 2021.

In case you don’t know me, I am a former ballerina. I spent 18+ years of my life dancing, and it will always be a part of me. I come from a professional studio (compared to a competition school with their tricks and kissy faces), and was trained as a ballerina. With all of this being said, you give me a twisty, suspenseful book about the world of dance, and I am in. The Ballerinas did not disappoint.

The Story

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.

My Thoughts

Surprisingly, I gave The Ballerinas four stars. Overall, it was enjoyable. When you start to dig in and really look at the details, it does start to fall apart just a bit.

I loved reading about the dynamic between the three girls as they were growing up, as well as their experiences in the ballet school. Now, my experience is nothing near the level that these girls were under, but I absolutely felt the same way they were describing. Competition with other dancers, concerns over how I looked, scheming to be in the front or get the best partner or whatever. I, unfortunately, related with it all.

Additionally, I now really want to see the ballet that Rachel Kapelke-Dale created in the story. It sounded incredible, but that may just be my infatuation with Anastasia and Rasputin and the rest of the Romanovs. It was a shame the ballet ended up cutting it.

Now, I’ve built up all of the good things of The Ballerinas. On to the less-than-great parts.

For me, there were a few too many things happening. What you believe to be the climax and the altercation at the heart of (almost) everything ends up being just a minor piece of the story. It then felt like there needed to be something else, but the something else that we’re given wasn’t what it should have been. I know that sounds confusing, but it’s pretty hard to explain without giving away the whole book.

Would I recommend this book to a friend? It definitely depends on the friend. There was a lot of ballet, so you’d need to appreciate that world to really appreciate The Ballerinas.

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