Friday, November 30, 2012
The Cranes Dance
Kate Crane is by herself for the first time ever. Her constant companion and sister Gwen is back home, recovering from a self inflicted injury and an undiagnosed mental illness. Her boyfriend just broke up with her and she now lives in her sister's apartment. She has plenty to occupy her time as a soloist in a New York ballet company. She has rehearsals, performances, and classes to fill her time, but even though her sister isn't there, she constantly lives in her shadow. Gwen surpassed her in the company and Kate now wears the costumes she would wear and essentially lives Gwen's leftover life. Through flashback and inner dialog, we get to know Kate and see her journey during the months of her sister's recovery.
I am a sucker for all things involving ballet. I find it infinitely interesting because of the physical demands, the ability, the dedication, and the grace involved to really be successful. Plus the music is phenomenal. The Cranes Dance is an interesting look into the world of top tier dancers with a decent into madness similar to the film Black Swan. I enjoyed the dancing aspects of the book. The descriptions of dancing gestures, conventions, and the plot of Swan Lake at the beginning of the novel are hilarious. I laughed out loud a lot, much to the interest of the random people around me at school. I loved learning the French technical terms and the descriptions of the dance. I honestly wish there was a little more detail about Kate's performances later in the novel. As the novel goes on, they get a little glossed over, but her mental state is more important then. The schedule these dancers adhere to is insane with practice and classes every day, rehearsals, performances, in addition to trying to have some semblance of a social life. I also never really thought about the physical toll of a high level of dance and the short careers of top ballet dancers.
Kate is an interesting character because she never tries to hide her insecurities or her crazy or petty thoughts. I actually really liked her because of her honesty and sense of humor. She lives within the shadow of her absent sister and, even though she isn't present for most of the book, Gwen has a marked presence. Kate wears Gwen's clothes, sleeps in her bed, plays the roles she would have played, and the list goes on. It's no wonder that she becomes obsessed with comparing herself to her sister and their past. They have a toxic relationship where Gwen falls apart and Kate covers it up and picks up the pieces. Kate is jealous of Gwen's dancing ability despite her mental illness. She has to come to terms with the reasons why she called her parents about Gwen's behavior. They may be more selfish than she is willing to admit. Over the course of the book, Kate injures her neck, becomes addicted to Vicodin, and suffers a mental decline throughout the novel. The mental part kind of sneaks up on her because she doesn't acknowledge her addiction or the things that really bother her. She struggles to appear completely happy and normal to those around her, even when they offer her help.
The Cranes Dance is a dark, funny, and honest book written by a former dancer Meg Howrey. She integrates her knowledge of dance very well and gives the novel a dose of realism. I found myself staying up late and forgetting to do other things to finish this book. I highly recommend it to fans of Black Swan and ballet dancing in general.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins