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
Title: Little Dancer
Author: Melanie Leschallas
Genre: Historical fiction
Release Date: 21st July 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.