All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

I’ve always loved ballet and as many of you who’ve been following me a while know, I’ve been immersed in researching the art for my own writing project so when the book cover of Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas popped in my email, with an intriguing tagline I couldn’t resist.

Book Review: Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

Book cover for Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas.

Ballerina en pointe on a paved street wearing a military jacket with red arm band. Tagline reads: Anarchist, ballerina, revolutionary, muse
Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

Title: Little Dancer

Author: Melanie Leschallas

Publisher: Unbound

Genre: Historical fiction

Release Date: 21st July 2022

Blurb

Paris, 1878. Ballet dancer Marie van Goethem is chosen by the unknown artist Edgar Degas to model for his new sculpture: Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen Years.

But Marie is much more than she seems. By day she’s a ‘little rat’ of the opera, contorting her starving body to entertain the bourgeoisie. By night she’s plotting to overthrow the government and reinstate the Paris Commune, to keep a promise she made to her father, a leading communard who died in the street massacres of 1871.

As Marie watches the troubling sculpture of herself come to life in Degas’ hands, she falls further into the intoxicating world of bohemian, Impressionist Paris, a world at odds with the socialist principles she has vowed to uphold.

With the fifth Impressionist Exhibition looming, a devastating family secret is uncovered which changes everything for both Marie and Degas.

As Degas struggles to finish his sculpture and the police close in on Marie, she must decide where her loyalties lie and act to save herself, her family and the Little Dancer.

My Thoughts

This is one of these books that would have slipped under my radar if it hadn’t appeared in my inbox and I’m extremely grateful I was invited to read. I loved it. Little Dancer isn’t a light easy read and it doesn’t show the romanticised version of ballet that I believed in when I studied Degas’ ballerinas in art at school. Life at the time was hard, the career in dance seedier than I imagined and this novel doesn’t shy away from the reality of the time including executions, prostitution, alcoholism and theft.

Beautifully written, this emotional and powerful story is immersive and drew me into Marie’s world to the extent that I could smell  and visualise the streets of Paris, Degas’ studio and Amelie’s boudoir. Marie has a strength of character, I couldn’t help to admire despite her young age and I had to keep reading to see how she’d cope with the unfolding dangers around her.

The cast of characters all have depth and stories of their own adding to the novel’s sense of realism. I could easily imagine it as a tv series or film.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes, Little Dancer will be a treasured addition to my forever bookshelf and Marie and Edgar have lodged themselves in my thoughts. Beautifully written, this novel is an immersive, emotional and powerful look at a turbulent time in France that I knew little about. It’s a story of women, family and survival but also the ability to change the world bit by bit. With the overlap with the suffragette movement it is more relevant to our lives than you think.

Photo for the sculpture Little Dancer aged fourteen by Edgar Degas reflected in a mirror
Little Dancer by Edgar Degas

Author Biography

Melanie Leschallas holds MAs in Creative Writing from Sussex and in Drama and Movement Therapy from Central School in London as well as a BA(Hons) in Modern and contemporary fiction French and Italian from Bristol University.

She was trained as a dancer and worked at the Moulin Rouge in Paris during her twenties. Mel is also a jazz singer and loves to sing Jacques Brel songs at the Savoy Hotel in London. She runs http://www.lunarlemonproductions.com with her husband, Craig, teaches yoga in Brighton and leads wellness and writing retreats at her home in the Malaga mountains.

Small image of the book cover as described above.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

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All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuznair

As we head towards Christmas and the traditional time of watching The Nutcracker at the theatre, now is the ideal time to review Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuznair. Beneath this stunning book cover is a story loosely based on The Nutcracker, a ballet I discovered after reading this. Scroll down to see if the story lives up to the promise the delightful cover makes.

Title: Midnight in Everwood

Author: M.A Kuzniar

Publisher: HQ

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: 28th October 2021

Blurb

In the darkness of night, magic awaits…

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.

After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

My Thoughts

This book is everything I ever wished for and more. I love ballet, strong female characters and magic and this novel blends all of those elements perfectly. Highly visual, the scenes appear fully formed in the mind from the start with the introduction of strong willed and determined Marietta fighting against the social norms of the time to continue ballet lessons but they become technicolour when she arrives at Everwood. The words capture the musicality and gracefulness of the ballet, The Nutcracker, which is based but takes on a darker, haunting and thrilling form as secrets are revealed.

In reality, there is no way I can convey how much I love the wonder and world building in this book. It is one of those reads you wish you can wipe from your memory so you can have the childish delight of reading it fresh so you can discover it all over again. I first read a digital advanced copy but loved it so much I had to order a physical copy to own. And wow, what a treat the physical copies are with its distinctive illustrated dust jacket that hides the gorgeous blue cover embossed with a gold ballerina underneath. My only regret is I was too late to buy a Waterstone’s edition too with the added essay on The Nutcracker, but since my copy is personally signed, I can’t grumble at all.

Midnight in Everwood is an unforgettable story that deserves to be cherished.

Would I recommend?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Not only is Midnight in Everwood a fantastic read that will become a classic in the future, the cover adds to its elegance, making it an ideal gift for fantasy lovers or those who adore ballet and The Nutcracker. Full of strong characters, set in an extravagant and magical location, the danger and suspense underpinning the beauty makes you unable to put this book down until the end. The impact of the story and Marietta lingers long after the last page.

It is one for my foverever shelf and will be reread during the festive season but it is also sits proudly on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf.

Author Biography

M.A. Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as can and bookstagrams as @cosyreads.

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