Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner

1859: Alexandrie is a hard-working and ambitious farm girl who dreams of becoming a famous and successful ballerina in Paris. But her passion for ballet is not the only reason why the young girl wants to pursue her dream. Alexandrie’s family is very poor and is struggling financially, thus, her mother hopes that as a ballerina, Alexandrie will be able to support her family. However, when the heroine finally joins the renowned Paris Opera Ballet, she is shocked to discover the truth behind the glamorous life of a ballerina. Even though ballerinas enjoy a sophisticated life style, including expensive and exquisite clothing and jewellery, they have to become mistresses of wealthy married men in order to lead such an exclusive life. Thus, Alexandrie perceives that she must pursue this shady path if she wants to support her family financially. But the young ballerina doesn’t want to become part of this tradition of high class prostitution, and decides to concentrate on her dancing. Nevertheless, she soon becomes distracted by the attractive artist Edgar Degas, who wants Alexandrie to model for him. The aspiring ballerina agrees to do so, since she hopes that Degas’s paintings will make her famous. But as Alexandrie is spending more time with the young painter she begins to fall in love with him and she is soon forced to choose between love and her duty towards her family. Will she follow her heart or will she make the choice to become the mistress of a wealthy man in order to help her poor family? As Alexandrie finally comes to a decision, she realizes that there’s nothing more painful in life than the choices of the heart!

Dancing for Degas is a fascinating tale about duty, morals, competition, jealousy and the painful decisions we make in life. Furthermore, it’s a heart-breaking story about love and the consequences that await us if we try to ignore it. Kathryn Wagner’s novel gives us a vibrant glimpse into the eminent Paris Opera Ballet, with its shocking and entrancing behind-the-scenes and the author manages to fully capture the true spirit of the Parisian ballet and art scene, depicting their different and alluring facets. In addition, Dancing for Degas draws an authentic portrait of one of the world’s most famous artists, offering the readers a believable Edgar Degas who is willing to sacrifice everything for his passion.

I really loved everything about this book and I was sad when I finished reading it (this also has to do with the novel’s ending). When I discovered Dancing for Degas last month, I immediately wanted to read it because of the following reasons:

– As a little girl, I also dreamed of becoming a ballerina and today, I am still fascinated by ballet
– I love Paris and I visited the City of Lights a few years ago
– I am interested in Impressionism

Thus, I was eager to read this book because its synopsis piqued my interest and because the novel sounded so promising. And I must say that Dancing for Degas met all my expectations since I was immediately drawn into the world of ballet with its glamorous reputation and its scandalous behind-the-scenes.

I really liked the heroine Alexandrie and I admired her strength and ambition. I felt very sympathetic to her and to her struggles to resist so many temptations and to make life-changing decisions. On the other side, I must admit that I didn’t really like Edgar Degas because he seemed so arrogant and self-centered. While I like his work and appreciate him as an artist, I don’t like his character (of course we cannot really know how he was in real life other than reading letters and other documents about him but I think that Degas was really like Kathryn Wagner portrayed him in this book). I don’t really understand how Alexandrie could have fallen in love with him. However, the person I disliked most in this book was Alexandrie’s mother. I have never read about someone who is so selfish, cold and calculating. The heroine’s mother never thinks about anyone else other than herself and she doesn’t really care about her daughter’s life or happiness. As long as Alexandrie sends her money each month, her mother is content, regardless of how Alexandrie might have procured the money. She doesn’t mind if her daughter becomes a mistress; on the contrary, she pushes Alexandrie in this direction because she knows that her daughter will send her even more money that way. Alexandrie’s mother wants her child to sacrifice her life for the benefit of her family, at all cost. I just couldn’t believe that a mother was capable of doing such a thing, but sadly, I know that there are mothers out there who do the same thing today (we only need to have a look at the film and music industry).

Dancing for Degas is a wonderful historical novel that will appeal to Tracy Chevalier fans and to readers who are interested in art and ballet. The book is also perfect for everyone who loves a heart-warming and complicated love story. I enjoyed reading Kathryn Wagner’s novel and I felt transported to another time and place where I had the chance to catch a glimpse of what was really going on behind the scenes at the Paris Opera Ballet in the late-nineteenth century. Dancing for Degas shows the reader both the beautiful and glamorous side of the ballet and the awful and often disgusting side that comes with being a famous ballerina. Furthermore, Dancing for Degas is a bittersweet and unforgettable love story and that’s why I loved this book so much!

Note: I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of her engaging book!

Here are some of Degas’s ballerina paintings and some of the pictures I took when I visited Paris a few years ago. I hope you like them!

Degas’s Ballerina Paintings: Courtesy of Google Images

Paris 2006:

The Girl with Glass Feet

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

When Vivienne at Serendipity mentioned The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw, I knew that I had to read this book! The book’s cover immediately attracted me and the synopsis piqued my interest.

Jason Liebman from Henry Holt and Company kindly sent me an advance reading copy and I must say that I really enjoyed reading it!

Midas is a shy young man who enjoys being alone, as he doesn’t really know how to talk to people. He has lived on St. Hauda’s Land his entire life, but he barely has any friends. Therefore, Midas has devoted his whole life to photography and when peculiar things begin to take place on the islands, he is eager to capture everything on camera. Odd winged creatures and albino animals seem to have appeared on the islands and other unusual things are happening. However, Midas doesn’t seem too concerned; he is intrigued by these beings and wants to take pictures of them. But everything changes when the young man meets Ida, the girl with glass feet. Her body is inexplicably turning into glass and she desperately searches for a cure. At first, Midas only seems to take an interest in her condition and wants to take pictures of her glass feet, but as they spend time together, he begins to fall in love with her. There is something about the girl’s nature that gradually changes Midas and thus, he begins to blossom into a brave and confident young man. Ida helps him overcome the demons of his past, while Midas helps her come to terms with her affliction. Together, they try to find a cure for her condition, but time is slipping away. Will Midas be able to save his beloved? And what does his father’s death have to do with all of this?

I don’t want to tell you more about this wonderful book, because I think that you should also read it and thus experience this absorbing story yourself! The Girl with Glass Feet is an unusual, magical love story that will touch your heart and will linger in your mind for a long time! I recommend this fanciful novel to everyone out there, since Ali Shaw has done such an excellent job fabricating a beautiful and gripping fairy tale! The author describes the landscape and the characters in a poetic way and he successfully manages to create an elegant world, where reality wonderfully merges with fantasy! All in all, The Girl with Glass Feet is an imaginative novel, full of suspense, magic and marvels. I have never read a book like this before, since it’s so unusual, but at the same time it’s so spectacular! I really loved this heartbreaking novel and I am so glad that I had the chance to read it!

Note: The book is scheduled for release in January 2010!