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The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey
Publication date: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Vintage Books
Summary: Kate Crane is a soloist in a celebrated New York City ballet company who is struggling to keep her place in a very demanding world. At every turn she is haunted by her close relationship with her younger sister, Gwen, a fellow company dancer whose career quickly surpassed Kate’s, but who has recently suffered a breakdown and returned home. Alone for the first time in her life, Kate is anxious and full of guilt about the role she may have played in her sister’s collapse. As we follow her on an insider tour of rehearsals, performances, and partners onstage and off, she confronts the tangle of love, jealousy, pride, and obsession that are beginning to fracture her own sanity. (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…The good: The Cranes Dance was one of the few contemporary adult books I really wanted to read last year but never got a chance to. So when I saw a copy (for really cheap!) at a local indie bookstore, I had to pick it up. I have to admit, it wasn't what I expected. It's a little more Black Swan than it is Bunheads (which is what I was hoping for) but it still provided a unique view on ballet. My favorite thing about the book is easily Kate's sarcastic voice. Especially when she's describing the ballets she's performing in. Our introduction to her character is actually her describing Swan Lake for us non-ballerinas and it definitely sets the tone for the entire book. Kate is a soloist for a ballet company in New York City and her younger sister Gwen is a principal in the same company. Being a principal is a step above soloist and even though they never directly compete, the feeling and tension is there. At least on Kate's side. She's an amazing dancer in her own right but her sister is just better. Then through a series of flashbacks, we find out that Gwen has been slowly going through a mental breakdown. One that Kate was privy to and even though she tried her best to help her, in the end Gwen needed professional help. It's when her sister leaves that Kate starts to step up her game as a ballerina. This could come across in two ways - either she's taking advantage of her sister's absence or she's throwing herself into dance in order to forget what happened. I saw it as a mix of the two, with an emphasis on the latter. Because Kate goes through a breakdown of her own throughout the book too. It was interesting to see ballet through her eyes and the constant pressure she felt to be perfect.
(Some) reservations: Kate is a very isolated person. Her sister won't talk to her, no boyfriend, only two friends but she goes out of her way to not confide in them and a benefactor/sponsor she spends the first Monday of every month with. So almost the entire book takes place in her head. I've realized this kind of storytelling doesn't work for me. I'm not saying it's written badly because that's definitely not the case here. But not only do I like getting inside a character's mindset and feelings but his/her relationships are important to me too. The few times she would talk to her parents, hang out with her friends or acknowledge her attraction to a guy - I kept thinking, I want more of this! I wanted to see her with people in order to get her better. Because despite being in her head for the entire book, I couldn't connect with her. Although, I really did feel bad for the awful situation she was thrown into.
Do I recommend?: Again, I think it depends on how you feel about the storytelling. If what I've described so far works for you and piques your interest and you have thing for ballet books (like I do), try it.