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The Cranes Dance

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,753 ratings  ·  543 reviews
I threw my neck out in the middle of Swan Lake last night.

So begins the tale of Kate Crane, 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 rece
Paperback, 373 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Vintage Books (first published 2012)
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Helene Jeppesen
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was perfection! If you have any interest in ballet, which I do, there's a pretty good chance that you'll like this novel. It was written by a former ballet dancer, and it gives you a rare insight into the ups and downs of being part of this world.
Kate and her sister Gwen are both professional ballet dancers in NYC, but Gwen has been ordered home to her parents because of psychological issues, and Kate - out protagonist - is left alone in NYC, right in the middle of a ballet season.
I loved
Elyse Walters
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is perfect example of how bore a reader right from the get-go ......
.......we get a quick-synopsis sloppy-sarcastic detail descriptions of "Swan Lake".
"You're gonna want to scoot down and get that program for the explanatory notes on this action, because otherwise you might think that the Queen is telling her son that he needs a manicure and that Siegfried is responding by trying to hail a cab, or test current wind conditions."
"Siegfried cheers up when the Queen presents him
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Still one of my favorite books - this one is very, very dear to me.
This novel manages to keep the glamorous mystique of professional ballet alive while still providing a backstage pass into an elite dancer's world. Kate Crane has almost - but not quite - reached the peak of her life's dream. She's an extremely talented soloist at a prestigious New York ballet company, but she's forever in the shadow of her younger, more naturally gifted and technically perfect sister, Gwen. In the wake of Gwen's nervous breakdown (which we find out more about as the novel moves ...more
Emily M
You shouldn't ask for forgiveness. Because of you ask someone to forgive you, and they do, then that's twice that you've taken something from them. First the betrayal, then the absolution.

I did not want this book to end
Took a while to get into this. I almost gave up after the first chapter, which was more or less a massive info dump about some random ballet, it was like reading a text book. It did start to get engrossing after a few chapters, mostly the focus on the odd relationship between Kate (the MC) and her sister, Gwen.

Kate was quite the irritating character, but in a gripping kind of way, particularly when her sanity started to crumble. She was too obsessive and in her own head, it was too much.
The par
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Debbie, Leslie, Vicki, Shannon
Recommended to Valerie by: Entertainment Weekly
What fresh hell is this? Although I laughed out loud in several places, and loved every second of this book. I'm just going to say, that the thought of ever being in the same ballet company as my sister brought the shivers to my spine. My sister may very well read this, so I should say, this has nothing to do with her, in any way, since the thought of having to compete in any way with anyone I love in the complicated way sisters sometimes love each other would give me the crazies.

And that brings
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
It definitely relied on ALL CAPS a bit too much, which demonstrated a lack of confidence in the writing and the writer's ability to express intense emotion. However, The Cranes Dance is an interesting character study that I could relate to in a lot of ways, and found it compulsively readable. I also enjoyed the not-so-low-key shade thrown at Black Swan.
Annabel Joseph
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really loved, loved, loved this book, but I will say as a caveat that I used to dance, so the insanity and Kate's conflicts and inner torment all interested me very much and made sense to me. I can't say if it would resonate as strongly with someone who hasn't danced and been in that culture, but I will only say it knocked me on my ass, it was so realistic.

Aside from that, I liked the protagonist Kate. I related to her and I sympathized with her. She was very human, down to earth, self critica
A very human novel, both witty and sad, about the intensity of being devoted to an art, and the insidious devastation wrought by mental illness. The Cranes, two sisters, are ballet dancers: Kate, the narrator, is successful and accomplished, yet permanently in the shadow of the phenomenally talented but volatile Gwen. Her chatty, conversational narrative follows the events of one season, shortly after Kate has split with her boyfriend and Gwen has had a breakdown. The story is almost like a tran ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This must be my favourite ballet-related book I have ever read. It was so honest, open and just utterly gripping.

What I loved the most about this book is how different it is from all other ballet books I have read. This book does not limit itself to the stereotypical topics of competition, catfights, eating disorders and the dancers' unconditional love for dancing - all of which are legitimate topics to be discussed, but I've just read these stories SO MANY TIMES before. I loved that this book d
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads, netgalley
I finished this book several days ago, and I am still thinking about it…mulling over passages in my head. The characters and tragically beautiful writing continue to haunt me; the writing is both funny and heartbreaking, and I highlighted dozens of passages while I read. The writer, Meg Howrey, made so many astute observations about life that made me think, “I wish I had written that.” This is one of those rare books that is both witty and profound.

The Cranes Dance is primarily a book about r
Larry H
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kate Crane is a soloist in a famed New York ballet company. She's never quite achieved true fame, but she is well-respected and has the opportunity to dance many featured roles in a number of ballets. Her younger sister, Gwen, also a ballet dancer in the same company, quickly eclipsed Kate in terms of talent and stardom, but after injuring herself and suffering a bit of a breakdown, Gwen has returned to their childhood home in Michigan. Gwen's absence gives Kate the opportunity to dance outside ...more
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Kate Crane is a soloist in a ballet company in New York City. Her younger sister is a principal in that same company. (For those who know nothing about ballet, principal is better than soloist.) But her younger sister is now at home recovering from a nervous breakdown. And Kate just threw out her neck.

I wanted to read THE CRANES DANCE because I love reading about ballet, but I was afraid it was going to be one of those books that earns its literary cred by being unrelentingly sad. I was definite
Crystal Starr Light
"No one makes a ballet or a symphony or a painting that expresses dating or looking for an apartment or switching to's all on this elevated and unrealistic level."

Kate Crane and her sister, Gwen, are both ballet dancers in the same New York ballet company. As the story opens, Kate has severely injured her neck, and Gwen was taken home to recuperate. Kate is trying to come to terms with this, but the pain in her neck, the strain of ballet dancing, the pressure of perfection, and her tw
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Things I love:

1. Ballet.

2. People who are crazier than I am.

This book has both of those things. After reading a review of the novel in Entertainment Weekly last year, I immediately bought a copy. Of course, it took me six months to actually get around to reading it. Once I started, I was hooked. Kate Crane is a fascinating character and I feel as though I went on this very strange and enlightening journey with her.

I think I have more quotes from this book highlighted than any other book on my K
Riley Dawson
Jun 29, 2012 rated it liked it
This is more of a 3.5 for me, but I knocked it down because I feel like the book could be kind of inaccessible for people who don't have any interest in dance. I'm not a dancer myself, but I'm interested in ballet, so I wasn't bothered by the huge amount of dance talk, but I feel like some people might be.

I definitely saw the similarity to Black Swan in this book, but I don't think that it's too similar (and really, one can only make so many stories based around the struggle of dance, so the sim
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved, loved, loved this. If I have any complaints, it's that it wasn't longer (the ending was a bit rushed), but the positives - the writing, the characters, BALLET!, SISTERS! - definitely outweigh that.
Patrick Dawson
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was so real, honest, and unique; how could I not give it 5 stars or ramble with a long review? I received an advanced readers copy of this book but haven't had much time with writing et al to read it until now. Meg's use of placed simple words for effect, free-flow dialogue, and descriptions allowed me to picture every dance step, stretch, and emotion. Her use of sarcastic humor, internal dialogue, and honesty to the character make the reader feel like a voyeur in her head, sharing her ...more
Jason Pettus
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

There's nothing inherently wrong with a novel concentrating on the minutiae of one particular industry or type of job, and in fact sometimes this is what novels do best -- think of Moby Dick or The Jungle, for example -- but it does mean that you're risking turning off big portions of your potential audien
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best book I’ve read so far this year. I received an advanced copy from NetGalley and I am counting the days until its release date so that I can buy a copy for myself.
It is about two sisters, two ballerinas, focusing mainly on their relationships and the way that dance affects both their lives. It’s hard to put into words the beauty of this book. It is not only the plot, which is intricate, with twisting veins leading the reader back and forth through time. It is the writing
this felt so real, it hurts
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was just amazing. It's dark and twisted but hopefully. Beautiful really. I'm going to write a longer review but for now I just want to enjoy the feelings it has left me with.
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm standing in my dressing room now. I am here. I am in the present tense. I'm not always here, and sometimes here is a difficult place. Sometimes it is a labyrinth, or a Minotaur, or a rope I can neither let go of nor follow. It's hard to find the right words, but I guess I would say that it's something like feeling the floor.

God, I am attempting to marshal my thoughts because this book was very intense.

My first reaction to Kate's POV and the subsequent unreliable-ness was trepidation (due mo
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fic
To the average reader, this novel is probably quite boring: there is very little action and a large amount of personal, narrator-driven analysis... about depression. However, as someone who has experience perception-crippling depression herself, this book hit home. Of all the books I have read and the few people I've talked with who have also experienced depression, this insight into Kate's life and decline into depression -and her sister's- was scarily spot-on with my own experiences. After wor ...more
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really loved The Cranes Dance. I loved it so much that I can even ignore the lame ending that attempts to tie everything in a neat little bow. Kate is on a new, happier path, Gwen comes back to New York, and the world spins on happily. The ending just seems a cop-out to the more complicated portrayal that Howrey depicts. I'm not saying that I wish (view spoiler) because I genuinely thought that was where Howrey was going. She does such a great job sustai ...more
Allen Adams
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Howrey is a writer of vision and clarity whose skills seem to be on the increase. She showed herself to be an understanding and capable chronicler of family dynamics in “Blind Sight,” but takes that understanding to new heights with “The Cranes Dance.” Kate Crane is a beautifully flawed woman; one who grasps most, but not all of her own shortcomings. It’s not easy to be surpassed by a younger sibling – especially one as high-maintenance as Gwen – but Kate
Diane S ☔
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
The first part of this book is a description of the ballet Swan Lake and quite frankly I could have done without it, but I persevered and was so glad I did. Kate and her sister Gwen are young ballet dancers taken on by a prestigious New York ballet company. I have always had a fascination with the ballet world and this novel full of descriptive ballets, the pressure the dancers are under, the classes they are always taking, and the fierce competition between the dancers, where few ever make it o ...more
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
wow this book was very powerful! I loved it, I learned so much about ballet and this book was just so beautifully written and the characters were so complex and fucked up but I could see myself in them in both Kate and Gwen It was magical to read about ballet and this toxic relationship betweet these sisters. Amazing.
T. Greenwood
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel with Meg Howrey last month and was excited to read this novel set in the world of professional ballet. (With an aspiring ballerina at home, it's a world that both fascinates and terrifies me).

This book is fabulous. It is about dance, and sisterhood, and mental illness. Kate, the narrator is wickedly funny and sarcastic and honest.

Highly recommended.
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Meg Howrey is the author of the novels The Wanderers , The Cranes Dance , and Blind Sight . She is also the coauthor, writing under the pen-name Magnus Flyte, of the New York Times Bestseller City of Dark Magic and City of Lost Dreams . Her non-fiction has appeared in Vogue and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Meg was a professional dancer who performed wit
“I am here. I am in the present tense. I'm not always here, and sometimes here is a very difficult place. Sometimes it is a labyrinth, or a Minotaur, or a rope I can neither let go of nor follow. It's hard to find the right words, but I guess I would say that it's something like feeling the floor. And that it is my privilege to feel it.” 24 likes
“When you step from the wings onto the stage you go from total blackness to a blinding hot glare. After a moment you adjust, but there is that moment. like being inside lightning.” 22 likes
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