Picked up Marie, Dancing By Carolyn Meyer the other day,
Not sure why but I went to the library Totally Determined to find some kinda ballet-themed young adult fiction. Not looking for anything specific, just figured there must be something. Sure enough, not only was there something, there was something loosely based in historical fact with an art tie-in!!!!!!!
And just to further the nerd alert, part way through reading the book I went back to the library and checked out Degas by Eduard Hüttinger, which is non-fiction with lots of prints and biographical info, and even risked tip-toeing past the napping baby to get my copy of Edgar Degas Ballet Dancers, which is prints with an introduction by Lillian Browse. You know, so I could catch all the references to paintings.
I guess this is how adults read young adult?
Am I alone here, cross referencing art books with this little 252 page paperback written for preteens?
This is totally beside the point, but: when the boy is napping I think of that entire side of the house as being, like, closed off in the way the way that things get closed off in horror movies. Like, “oh no, we can’t get the antidote because that whole wing of the hospital is over-run with zombies!!!” Or, “Oh no, we can’t turn on the generator, that whole wing of the research facility is submerged and over-run with super-intelligent great white sharks!!!!!” and I’m like, “Oh no, I can’t get my Degas book because that whole wing is over run with napping baby!!!!”
Ok so about the book:
It’s a fictional story of Marie van Goethem who was the real life model for the statuette, petite danseuse de quatorze ans. She was a real person, she really danced at the Paris Opéra and so did her older sister Antoinette and her younger sister Charlotte.
Historical fact goes: Antoinette was arrested and sent to prison and meanwhile dismissed from the Paris Opéra, Marie was dismissed also, Charlotte danced until her retirement, when she became a ballet teacher with the ballet school at the Opéra.
The novel fills in this very intriguing lack of info.
I’ll just point out here that it is very bizarre to read young adult fiction with adult eyes. I pretty much read the whole book with my hands covering my face, peeking out between my fingers, thinking crazy over-react-y things like “oh god, somebody is totally about to die horribly in childbirth. Or die trying to avoid childbirth. Why hasn’t Antoinette given Marie a talk about where babies come from??? Oh god maybe she doesn’t know either!!!! Oh god I can’t look. Oh god what happens next????”
I was a total mess.
Maybe The Adult Beginner is not emotionally mature enough for YA.
The major conflict of the book is the fact that Marie and her family are really really poor. Like starving.
Maman is a laundress (see painting) who spends what little money she earns on absinthe (see painting) at cafés (see painting see painting see painting). Papá is no longer with us. Older sister Antoinette is constantly pressuring Marie to come along to lé foyer de la danse and hook herself a wealthy patron already, which I’d been curious as to whether the book would even mention, I mean, we are basically talking prostitution, kinda putting the A in YA.
Maybe this is my adult eyes reading too much again, but I was totally with Antoinette. Maybe also because I’d just read Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin and Midwives by Jennifer Worth, (which is the book the PBS series Call the midwife is based on), both of which give devastating descriptions of poverty and starvation, and so I was kind of like, Dude, Marie, where is this oddly unmotivated sense of morality coming from? Take that man’s jewelry, dammit, let him set you up in an apartment! Jeez!
Oh yeah, and in the midst of all this she models for Degas. Who is a perfect gentleman. Don’t worry.
I kinda want to read the Not Young Adult version of this story, mainly because there were lots of places where I’d think Yeah Right! and then remember, Oh, YA, right. This is written with sweet young girls in mind, not cranky thirty-six year olds.
The ending made me really sad. I wonder if the audience it is meant for finds it sad.
A couple people have recommended I read The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. So maybe that’s next.
I also want to read Bunheads by Sophie Flack, not because it has any Degas relationship but because it is ballet YA and because I follow her on twitter and I think that’s neat, to, like, kind of be internet friends with an author. My library doesn’t have the physical book, but they do have a copy available for download.
Maybe The Adult Beginner will get with the times already and figure out how to check out a book that newfangled way.
- got a question? I might answer with a post! email@example.com
- The Adult Beginner may or may not be emotionally mature enough for YA wp.me/pZ1rC-1aU 1 day ago
- @CloudandVictory absolutely, my pleasure 3 days ago
- Working on Balance wp.me/pZ1rC-1aO 4 days ago
- @Dance_Reader as if there aren't enough things to notice in ballet class 4 days ago
- Tiny ballerina has been there the whole time. wp.me/pZ1rC-1aM 5 days ago
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