May 29, 2012

Book Review: The Master's Muse


With The Master's Muse, Varley O'Connor has crafted a compelling novel based on the life of prima ballerina Tanaquil Le Clerq--a complicated love story set in the tumultuous world of international ballet.

In 1956, "Tanny" Le Clerq was on the way to becoming one of the most famous ballerinas of all time. Married to George Balanchine, the genius choreographer who revitalized American ballet, Tanny danced across Europe that summer to rave reviews--until she collapsed in Copenhagen, and never walked again.

Polio transformed both Tanny's life and her already difficult marriage. Only 26 when the disease struck, she was Balanchine's fifth wife, more than 20 years younger than he. Tanny and Balanchine were passionate about each other, but they each had tempers to match their artistic gifts.

O'Connor follows the remaining years of their marriage, through the high points--such as when Balanchine designs physical therapy regimens for Tanny--and the low--including his affairs with ever younger ballerinas. O'Connor also depicts Tanny's desperate struggle to adapt to life in a wheelchair while still surrounded by the culture of dancing that she loves.

Through Tanny and Balanchine's story, O'Connor gives the inside scoop on more than 30 years of New York City Ballet history, and offers a true-to-life glimpse of a world full of music, love and art. Like an elegant ballet, The Master's Muse takes the reader on an artistic journey of love--an undeniably beautiful journey, despite its bittersweet ending.

This isn't the sort of book I'd normally pick up. But Shelf Awareness sent it to me, and I decided to give it a shot and review it for them. I ended up liking it quite a bit, and I learned a lot about the world of ballet, and about polio, that I hadn't known before.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Up to you. My grandma probably wouldn't approve.

Do you know much about ballet?  

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