Today I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly as part of the blog tour. My thanks to Kate Keehan at Hodder and Stoughton for the invitation to join the tour and for the advance copy of the book for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Swan Lake is divided into the black acts and the white acts. The Prince is on stage for most of the ballet, but it’s the swans audiences flock to see. In early productions, Odette and Odile were performed by two different dancers. These days, it is usual for the same dancer to play both roles. Because of the faultless ballet technique required to master the steps, and the emotional range needed to perform both the virginal Odette and the dark, seductive Odile, this challenging dual role is one of the most coveted in all ballet. Dancers would kill for the part.
Ava Kirilova has reached the very top of her profession. After years and years of hard graft, pain and sacrifice as part of the London Russian Ballet Company, allowing nothing else to distract her, she is finally the poster girl for Swan Lake. Even Mr K – her father, and the intense, terrifying director of the company – can find no fault. Ava has pushed herself ahead of countless other talented, hardworking girls, and they are all watching her now.
But there is someone who really wants to see Ava fall . . .
Oh this book is very clever. Twisted, intense, mesmerising, Erin Kelly pulls us right in the heart of a world class ballet company and takes a dark look at the extremes that dancers will go to in order to make it to the top. The role of the Swan, Odette, is the most sought after, the most coveted, but it comes at a price, especially for ballerina, Ava Kirilova. As readers we join her and the London Russian Ballet company during the final weeks of preparation for the grand opening of the most ambitious staging of the ballet ever seen. But it is a production beset with tragedy and disruption comes at every turn. Some might even say that the whole production is cursed …
Erin Kelly does a stunning job of creating an underlying tension from the very start of the novel. Although I know little of the world of ballet, it being one of the few forms of theatre I haven’t really engaged in, if felt like a truly authentic portrayal of the industry and of the obsessive nature of the training that ballet dancers undertake in order to make it to the top of their game. Of course, for the purpose of the story there are elements which are exaggerated, inflated, but that whole compulsion to dance, to push the body to extremes is what lies at the core of the story, and the sense of loss, almost bereavement when that which they covet most is lost, seeps from the page in a wave of emotion.
Although this is a tale set within the world of a ballet company, it is not simply a tale of ballet itself. There is a mystery that builds within the pages, a web of deceit so deftly spun that whilst you see it expand before your eyes, you are never quite prepared for what is finally revealed. Told from three points of view, Ava, Juliet and Roman, each new chapter adds to our understanding and transforms all that we thought we knew. Although everything seems obvious in the end, you should be prepared for more twists and turns than any dancer could achieve. The splendour of Ava’s passion driven triple fouette pales in comparison.
The character development in this story is superb, the passion and the fear that each one exudes. The sense of loss is, at times, overwhelming, both of career and of love. Family is a key theme, both husband to wife, father to daughter and in the wider sense of the dance company. It is hard to watch the slow progress of Ava’s paranoia, the sense that everyone is trying to usurp her success, even her own father, company owner and Patriarch Nikolai Kirilov. And then to witness Juliet and her struggles when the very thing that she wants and loves, the ability to dance, is ripped from her is emotional and yet adds to the intrigue that has been building from the start.
This is a clever and complex story that I really haven’t done justice to in this review. I’m not even sure I know how to without giving far too much away. The writing in this book is pitched perfectly, the narrative beautifully absorbing that I was drawn so deep into a world that I don’t know, but in a way which would not let me go. I read this book in just a few short hours, enthralled by the twisted lives and the many lies of the characters and desperate to know how it would draw to a conclusion. And conclude it did, in perfectly fitting and equally twisted style. Morality or ambition – which one will win out. You’ll need to read to find out. A very easy one of these for me.
About the Author
Erin Kelly is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind, He Said/She Said, Stone Mothers and Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the mega-hit TV series. In 2013, The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011. He Said/She Said spent six weeks in the top ten in both hardback and paperback, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, and selected for both the Simon Mayo Radio 2 and Richard & Judy Book Clubs. She has worked as a freelance journalist since 1998 and written for the Guardian, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, New Statesman, Red, Elle, Cosmopolitan and The Pool. Born in London in 1976, she lives in north London with her husband and daughters.
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