Marianne's Reviews > Dancer

Dancer by Colum McCann
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's review
Sep 20, 10

bookshelves: russia, dance
Read in May, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I have an interest with the cold war and the defections that took place during the height of communism so it's kinda surprising that I haven't read more on the subject. This book covers that, ticks the Russia box plus throws in some dance and was on special offer, which all appeals to me.

I think mostly everyone has seen, whether they know it or not, a little bit of Rudolf Nureyev dance. He was a superstar and his early performances can be found on youtube still but I knew nothing about him apart from the fact that he was an amazing ballet dancer who had defected in the early 60s. This book wasn't exactly a biography because it had amalgamations of people, and suppposings flung in amongst the facts, but there was enough truth about it to be informative.

The actual style of the book was weird for me. Speech wasn't shown conventionally, the book was split into books with very few chapters within them and perspective would shift from one character to another from page to page without telling you who it was you were reading so it kept you on your toes as you were reading. It was a little confusing at times, but it was engrossing enough that I wanted to stick with it anyway.

It covered 'Rudi' Nureyev's life from child-hood to his trip home and ended with the auction prices his belongings had sold for after his death. He was a complex character - a perfectionist who was at times deeply unlikeable but at others you almost wanted to shelter him. His relationship with Margot Fontaine was portrayed beautifully, which (combined with her financial issues) explained why they continued to dance together for so long (she still danced with him when she was 69 years old and he was 50). Rudi was decadent and used and discarded men for pleasure yet never really found any deep, lasting love or pleasure in life. The most touching part of the book for me was his visit home to see his dying mother in 1989, nearly 30 years after his defection. He showered his sister and niece with gifts and refused to leave his mother until she recognised him, but she never did.

It was a good book and has me curious as to maybe reading a different account that would perhaps be a little more thorough. I just don't know enough about him to know which parts of the story were fictionalised and enhanced for dramatic purposes (he even admits some of the celebrity accounts weren't accurate, which is a shame because they were fascinating) so eventually I might get an actual biography and try and find out what is right and what's not.

Still though, it was definitely worth a read so not going to complain too much.

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