**spoiler alert** Fun, fast read with fairly short chapters, like little snapshots of life as a teenage ballet dancer: the pressure and devotion to da**spoiler alert** Fun, fast read with fairly short chapters, like little snapshots of life as a teenage ballet dancer: the pressure and devotion to dance along with close girl friendships and a dash of romance. Enjoyable, light reading.
Two things I must nitpick: (maybe this is just because I didn't drink alcohol until I was over 21) Teen drinking was basically a staple every night for these girls (and their dates). No one cards in Manhattan, according to this book, and the girls have wine or vodka with all dinners, at restaurants or while at home. Since these girls are obsessed (and forced to be obsessed) with their weight, their muscles and their bodies in general, it seems odd to see them be so free with alcohol, junk food and soda, but maybe it's not that odd. (I can relate to this book in a way: I was a synchronized swimmer all through high school and college, dedicated to training and shaping my body for all the demands, but I did eat cookies and pizza and whatever other fun college foods, like ice cream and popcorn, along with salads and rice cakes, etc.)
The second thing (this may also be because I'm no longer in that 19-20 age group and am reading this YA book about this age group) was Jacob's bad/immature attitude towards Hannah's dedication to dancing, to improving and eventually striving towards being promoted. I couldn't help draw this comparison to a scene from this awful movie I saw, "The Devil Wears Prada". In the movie, Anne Hathaway's character becomes an assistant to this horrible boss who's editor of a huge magazine or such, and this boss is always demanding the craziest, bitchiest and most farfetched requests of Anne Hathaway's character while also demeaning her but at the same time. The assistant character is very determined to fulfill all the requests, no matter how crazy or no matter what time of day or night they come. One night, the assistant is out with her friends and boyfriend (who played the lead on that awful show "Entourage"), and she a call from her boss to do something. So she goes to leave and gets chewed out by her boyfriend for skipping out, but her boyfriend never recognizes that she's GOOD at her job in spite of having to put up with all the crap, she never backs down.
So this is what I thought of whenever Jacob made a big deal over Hannah declining a late night out, or a walk in the park or a movie, that he was just a selfish jerk, trying to make her feel bad for being as dedicated as she is to succeeding. This seemed to be extra hard for me to wrap my head around, because Jacob is in college and is a musician, so I couldn't help but wonder if he wouldn't feel or do the same should his music career take off.
Hannah, the protagonist, dreams of becoming a soloist so she can get out of dancing in the corps de ballet, something she has done since moving to NYC at age 14 and becoming an apprentice in the Manhattan Ballet Academy. Unlike one of the older dancers, Leni, who is 34 and has danced the same parts in ballets for years and years and years and who knows she will never be promoted, Hannah wants to be recognized as a standout. She takes extra workout classes, Pilates and Bikram Yoga back to back to back with her rehearsals and performances, having a single night off a week. She has no life outside the ballet (and for a while, she's fine with that, though after she meets Jacob she starts thinking she might want something else besides ballet in her life).
Granted, Hannah is 19 and Jacob is 19 or 20, so their reactions and behaviors (as well as their levels or maturity or immaturity) might perfectly reflect their ages and their experiences, with or without being in a relationship. I still can't help but think that Jacob was pressuring Hannah too much to be "a normal girl" when she obviously wasn't, and got angry and pissy with her when she refused to be this "normal teenage girl". It seemed like Jacob was jealous of Hannah's dancing career, jealous to be "less important" to her than dancing, even making several comments about his friends teasing him for "still being hung up on her" during times when she was overly focused on her work, too focused to return a text or make it to one of his music engagements.
They do end up together, which I guess worked for Hannah (though I think she could have done better! And not with Matt, who was a jerk of another kind) who choose to ultimately withdraw from the dancing world and try on a different kind of life. ...more
As a whole, I enjoyed the entire plot and all of the characters (except for Harriet's family and Edward and Isobel). The novel was a well-written sweeAs a whole, I enjoyed the entire plot and all of the characters (except for Harriet's family and Edward and Isobel). The novel was a well-written sweeping historical romance set in 1912 in England and Brazil/The Amazon.
The only slightly disappointing thing was that the story turned out to be more of a romance than about ballet, which I thought the majority of the story would be about (but I could have also had "The Red Shoes" and "Black Swan" on the brain as I approached this novel). ...more
**spoiler alert** This was absolutely delightful to read, especially knowing it was the great inspiration for so many adaptions. I loved the Gothic an**spoiler alert** This was absolutely delightful to read, especially knowing it was the great inspiration for so many adaptions. I loved the Gothic and horror elements and the way the narrator worked so diligently to prove that what appeared to be supernatural was in "reality" man made.
I loved the all the mysteries and how they were revealed in good time—Christine telling Raoul all the reasons behind her strange behavior and then the Persian telling the reader how he knew so much about Erik. It was hard not to pity Erik in spite of the horrors and torment he worked so hard to create for everyone, especially Christine, because at the heart of his cruelty is his want to "be some one", to "live in a flat with a wife he can take out on Sundays" like any normal man and be in love and be loved back. And then, as the Persian points out in the last few chapters, if Erik hadn't been so atrociously ugly, he would have been revered as a genius, artist, musician, magician, contractor, builder, etc.
Also, this edition was translated so well that the novel was very easy to read. (Maybe it was written that way originally in French too.) And the introduction was very fascinating too. ...more