Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: Various Positions

Ballet dancers are a class of athletes unto themselves. The discipline, sacrifice and passion required to have a career as a ballet dancer is almost beyond comprehension and perhaps only those that are driven to dance understand how difficult a life it is.

Various Positions is the story of a young girl named Georgia who is accepted into the Royal Toronto Ballet Academy and becomes obsessed with achieving perfection as a dancer. During the course of her studies, she struggles with a dysfunctional family situation and a growing awareness of her sexuality.

"I adjusted my leotard strap. Molly, in front of me, did too. Something about his nastiness was irresistible. It was like when someone teases you, and you're charmed against your will. We repeated the exercise. I channelled pure power into my muscles, could picture the energy, hot and white. I had never wanted to be so perfect before. When we finished, Roderick pushed himself off the piano and walked slowly across the studio floor. I could see only the side of his face, but I was desperate to read his expression. Was he pleased with our work this time?" (page 77)

I was hooked on the story from page one. Not only is this book beautifully written, it is also provocative and riveting, especially as the story develops into something unexpected.  I cannot say more about the plot without giving too much away, but the details about the ballet school are so convincing that I assumed the author must have once been a dancer. There was one very minor error on page 234 when Georgia bakes cupcakes with her mother using a chocolate cake mix.  A baker would never add flour to a cake mix (because it already has flour in the mix), but other than that tiny mistake (which I'm sure no one else would even notice), the book was virtually flawless in its execution - so much so that I had to wonder whether it might cause some controversy within the ballet community, especially since there is a very prestigious school of ballet in Toronto (situated on the same street as identified in the book).

This is author's first book. The back cover reveals few details about the author Martha Schabas except to say that she holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and that she lives in Toronto. This is an author to watch.

Title: Various Positions
Author: Martha Schabas
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Category: Fiction
Number of Pages: 361
Price: Canada $22 (paperback)
Note: US release is February 14, 2012

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