Tag Archives: Paris

“The Ballerinas” by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

This recently released novel harkened back to an early interest of mine. Right after I stopped binge-reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (middle school), I started reading about ballet. Much later, I read biographies of wonderful dancers, like Suzanne Farrell and Gelsey Kirkland. 

The Ballerinas brought me up to date on the strange, wonderful and very, very insular world of ballet. 

Kapelke-Dale includes sexual politics that wasn’t obvious in the older books. Gender is ALL. Male dancers are few, highly privileged and likely to feel “entitled”. Aspiring ballerinas are numerous and fiercely competitive. The men continue to grow and develop much longer than ballerinas, who “freeze” at about age 16. Retirement is mandatory at age 42. Partnered dancing (the pas des deux) accounts for much of the chasm between men and women. 

(I wonder what’s happening with transsexual dancers? Kapelke-Dale didn’t tackle this.)

The Ballerinas follows the lives of three dancers, classmates at the school of the Paris Opera Ballet, and an older woman who raises one of them. “Life balance” is not a concept for dancers, who rise to stardom only if extremely obsessive. One of the dancers becomes a choreographer, which I found fascinating.

Obsession leads to drama. I didn’t foresee the climax of this book, which I won’t share.

If you want something exciting, fast paced and thoroughly contemporary (published 2021), read this book!

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“A Paris Apartment” by Michelle Gable

Who else has had to press “restart” after life (or death, for that matter) interrupted their reading? I’m suffering from brain fog and distraction. I decided a good dose of chick lit might help me get reading again.

A Paris Apartment is reasonably intelligent chick lit. Our heroine is an American woman with a shaky marriage and family burden of fears, most particularly, fear of child bearing. A charming Frenchman gets inside her boundaries and helps her deal with some of them. Fun reading.

Gable uses the term “provenance” so frequently that I am now curious. I plan to do some reading and consult with friends who are artists.

I’m willing to give Gable’s other books a try.

“The Girl Who Reads on the Metro” by Christine Feret-Fleury, translated by Ros Schwartz

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro: A Novel

This little book (172 small pages) could probably be classified as “magical realism”. It contains just a hint of the supernatural, the appealing notion that books respond to people, want to be read, want attention. Aside from that, it’s a simple story about the transformative power of reading. Anyone who ever REALLY gets lost in a book will understand.

Juliette lives a safe and quiet life, but she’s endlessly curious about the people she sees reading books on the Paris metro. She stumbles into a place marked “Books Unlimited”. It’s not quite a store. Sometimes it’s referred to as a “depot”. It’s not clear where the books come from, but they arrive in a steady stream.

Before the dust settles, not only has Juliette quit her unsatisfying job, but so have her two colleagues, each moving towards fulfillment of a happily cherished dream.

This book is being marketed for Book Clubs. I think it will be popular! I could happily spend some time imagining backstories and alternative futures for Feret-Fleury’s loveable characters. And there’s an extensive book list included!

“Left Bank” by Kate Muir

Another “accidental” read, found in the rented beach house where we spent Thanksgiving. (See December 9, 2014, for a review of the book I found last year.)

  • Genre = “chick” lit.
  • Sub genre = second chances and middle age.
  • Sub sub genre = what’s for dinner?

A fictional look at the lives of rich and sophisticated Parisians. What could be more fun? Lots of details about food and fashion. The book centers around a family. Madame M is an American actress from Texas, just transitioning from film to live stage, doing her best to be more French than a native born Parisian. Her husband thinks he is Jean Paul Sartre. Their seven year old daughter Sabine, raised mostly by hired help, knows her parents are unhappy. In a moment of pique , she “runs away”, and circumstances extend her absence for over 12 hours, enough to scare any parent witless. As the family recovers from this trauma, the adults start to make changes in their lives.

This not-especially-meaty plot is enlivened by a character of considerable mystery, Madame Canovas, the aged and eccentric concierge in the apartment building, who sheltered the “missing” Sabine. A few days later, she jumps to her death from the roof of the building, her secrets dying with her. Was she guilty, delusional or merely eccentric?

By the end of the book, a divorce is functionally complete. Both parents are paying attention to little Sabine, who thrives. But the reason I would refer to this cheerful novel as “chick lit” is that, at the end, Madame M’s career is soaring, while her former husband seems trapped in his intellectual pretensions, and Paris has turned its attention to other philosophers.