Monday, December 13, 2021

REVIEW: The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale


The premise of The Ballerinas intrigued me; it was a pallet cleanser from all of the academic things I'd been reading lately. It had several moving parts but I think the main story arc was one many people would relate to: the longing for something that once was and trying to reconcile that with where you are now. In the case of The Ballerinas, Delphine leads us through her story of best friendship with Lindsay and Margaux, her failed love affairs, and her unbreakable connection to ballet all with Paris and Russia as the backdrop to these important years. The story takes place over the course of more than a decade with alternating chapters of present and past which helps us contextualize how she got here and why she felt the way she did.

Rather than focus on the twists and turns of this novel, I'd rather mull over what Kapelke-Dale shows us in the evolution of Delphine and her friendships. As strange as it may sound, I really enjoyed the honest pain and loneliness that often came through on the page; it felt real and raw--and not something I come across every day. I also really enjoyed how these friends worked through some of their challenges (in their adulthood) and called each other out on their crap, when needed. But the thing that I wasn't really expecting and was such a nice surprise what Delphine's evolution into a strong women's advocate. Her contemplations on women and men and how our society works were interesting and powerful in their full throated support for all things woman. 

All in all, The Ballerinas was a really pleasant surprise. The blend of childhood and adulthood friendship and the messy ways it can evolve was thoughtful and honest and interesting. Throw in Paris and the inner workings of a world renowned ballet powerhouse and you have the makings of a fine weekend read. 



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.

Thirteen 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, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's 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.

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