The Dance of the Dolls

Union Square. Sept. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781454951230. $27.99. SUSPENSE
DEBUT Ashe, a former ballet dancer, eloquently describes the world of ballet and presents memorable, well-rounded characters in her first novel. Identical twins Olivia and Clara Marionetta are ballerinas for the Vic-Wells Ballet in London, 1933. They are rehearsing for a performance of Coppélia, a story in which a young man becomes obsessed with a life-sized dancing doll. Olivia, the more serious of the sisters, has caught the eye of shy ballet shoe–maker Samuel, who attempts to connect with her by leaving anonymous gifts and notes. Olivia’s affections, however, are turned toward pianist Nathan, Clara’s beau and a former child prodigy who seeks to reclaim his former fame and prestige with Clara at his side. But free-spirited Clara feels stifled by Nathan’s quest for perfection, and she longs to live a life of adventure and change. With the performance drawing nearer, life begins to imitate art, as each person’s obsession reveals underlying tensions.
VERDICT Based on the real ballet scene in prewar London, this immersive tale will be a delight for historical-fiction fans who like a touch of suspense.
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