The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Published: December 7, 2021

St. Martin’s Press

I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

Rachel Kapelke-Dale is the co-author of GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND (Penguin 2014), a memoir about the significance and nuances of female friendships. The author of Vanity Fair Hollywood’s column “Advice from the Stars,” Kapelke-Dale spent years in intensive ballet training before receiving a BA from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. from University College London. She currently lives in Paris.

“Ballerinas are like pointe shoes: you have to break them down before they’re of any use.”

Delphine has spent her entire life as a dancer. It’s what her mother did, and it’s a world she knows. As she has grown up, with her best friends, navigating the ballet world, she has experienced the highest highs and lowest lows. Having her friends at her side always made things seem bearable until they weren’t. The spotlight shines bright, with a heat that can burn too bright.

This was a beautiful story about legacy, expectation, friendship, and understanding self-worth. I found the themes in this novel genuinely compelling.

The characters were complicated, and truthfully, not the most likable. While they all had qualities that made them endearing, they were also so vain, so selfish, that at times I did not like them.

Delphine was dynamic. She never felt good enough, and she was constantly living in the shadow of her mother, then her friends, with expectations wearing her down.

Lindsay was bold, and passionate, and not disciplined in the way Delphine and Margaux were. She had weightlessness to her that kept things light.

Margaux was severe and blunt. And she realized she would never be the prima ballerina but kept working because that was what she knew.

The dynamic of their friendship is told with a dual timeline, intertwining both the past and the present. This was a clever way to incorporate the complicated structure that is ballet.

I enjoyed how genuine the relationships were and how powerful the act of growing up was represented. I also found the presentation of life in a ballet company fascinating.

The mix of desire with passion, twisted with talent and competition, was beautifully done. This is a hefty book filled with strong emotions and vivid imagery.

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