Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: The Chosen Maiden by Eva Stachniak

Title: The Chosen Maiden
Author: Eva Stachniak
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: January 10, 2017
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Born on the road to dancer parents, the Nijinsky children seem destined for the stage. Vaslav is an early prodigy, and through single-minded pursuit will grow into arguably the greatest--and most infamous--Russian ballet dancer of the 20th century. His talented younger sister Bronia, however, also longs to dance. Overshadowed by Vaslav, plagued by a body deemed less than ideal and struggling against the constraints of her gender, Bronia will have to work triply hard to prove herself worthy.

Bronia's stunning discipline and mesmerizing talent will eventually elevate her to the highest stage in Russia: the prestigious, old-world Mariinsky Ballet. But as the First World War rages, revolution sparks in Russia. In her politics, love life and career, Bronia will be forced to confront the choice between old and new; traditional and groundbreaking; safe and passionate."

My Two Cents: 

"The Chosen Maiden" is the story of Bronia Nijinsky, the sister of the famous ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Although I am not an expert on ballet by any stretch, I do appreciate it and even for those of us who are only casual observers, Nijinsky's name stands above so many others in the dancing world. I had no idea before reading this book that not only did he have a sister but that she was a fantastic ballet dancer in her own right. Who says you can't learn anything from fiction?

I love books that explore lesser known people in history. Bronia was a great dancer in her own right and seemed to be much more steady career-wise than her brother. Not only is her dancing life fascinating but her personality itself makes this book a good read. She has the kind of drive that many can only dream about. Many parts of her life seem to be one step forward, two steps back but she keeps on going. Her tenacity is inspiring. Not only is her personality interesting but the details of all the places that she goes and the people that she meets really helped me get into the book. The author does a great job of making these places and secondary characters come to life. The detail is truly rich and decadent!

I love exploring family relationships in books and the sibling relationship at the center of this book definitely drew me in! Bronia and Vaslav have such a tenuous relationship. They push each other. They drive each other. They make each other rise to the occasion. This book explores not only Bronia's dancing life in her brother's shadow but a generally complicated relationship between siblings from a tight family although one that seems to favor the male children (not particularly surprising for those days). The family hangs its star on Vaslav and Bronia must push herself in order to get the scraps. I loved reading about this relationship!

This is the kind of book that you savor. There are great and interesting characters and great detail that makes this a good book to get lost in. My fellow histfic fans will really enjoy this one!



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