Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Disappointment in Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer

Although this book is titled Marie, Dancing, I found it was very heavy on the Marie side of things and lacking in the dancing half and the implied Edgar Degas theme as well. Although this is a very well-written book about a young girl struggling in a very poor life in early 20th century Paris, it was not what I was expecting and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. 

36338

Series: None

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Ballet

Format: Audiobook, narrated by Carine Montbertrand

Rating: 2.5 stars

Description:

Marie van Goethem, a fourteen-year-old ballet dancer in the famed Paris Opéra, has led a life of hardship and poverty. For her, dancing is the only joy to counter the pain inflicted by hunger, her mother’s drinking, and her selfish older sister. But when famed artist Edgar Degas demands Marie’s presence in his studio, it appears that her life will be transformed: He will pay her to pose for a new sculpture, and he promises to make her a star.
As Marie patiently stands before Mr. Degas each week, she dreams about supporting her family without being corrupted like most young dancers. She dreams about a life as a ballerina on the stage of the Opéra. And she dreams about being with her true love.
In this deeply moving, historically based account, Carolyn Meyer examines the life of the model for Edgar Degas’s most famous sculpture, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

Review:

Although this book is titled Marie, Dancing, I found it was very heavy on the Marie side of things and lacking in the dancing half and the implied Edgar Degas theme as well. Although this is a very well-written book about a young girl struggling in a very poor life in early 20th century Paris, it was not what I was expecting and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.

I was very disappointed by the lack of actual dancing in this book. Compared to other dance books I’ve read, including Bunheads by Sophie Flack, On Pointe by Lorie Ann Grover, and To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel, very little of the book takes place in the dance studio, and when it does, none of the actual dancing is described. Usually it was just talked about from a different setting, such as after a performance or on the way to the studio. Instead, the focus of this book seemed to be more on Marie’s condition in life as the daughter of a poor laundress with two sisters. In this way, it reminded me more of A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson, where dancing is placed second to the other themes and plots of the book.

In addition, my experience reading this book was slightly marred by the narrator, Carine Montbertrand, who has one of my least favorite narration voices. She also reads Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, and I was irritated by her nasally, whiny voice in that book as well. Her males sound congested and all her girls sound younger than eight years old, making all the characters very hard to take seriously.

(Some spoilers:) This book ends in a similar fashion to all the other ballet novels I’ve read, with the dancer giving up before ever achieving her goal to become a lead ballerina. Also, it ended on a surprisingly sad note, without a perfect solution to all her problems that as a spoiled YA-reader I have come to expect. I listened to the audiobook version of Marie, Dancing, and as the ending spirals into darker and more drastic situations (only ending on a slightly lighter note), I kept worriedly checking how much was left, sure it would all be resolved soon enough.

(Spoilers continued:) In addition, the romance in this book fit the mood but wasn’t very feel-good. While the romance developed, I kept feeling a strong sense of deja-vu that I’d read this same sort of relationship and plot before. Marie has a simple flirtation with her former neighbor, and young and also poor coachman. He ends up proposing to her, but for the sake of her family’s welfare she turns him down. In the end, she marries the much older and slightly wealthier man she grew up next to, and lives a happy but not “romantic” life with him. What in the world does this remind me of? I may just be thinking of Little Women, but there is another book I swear I’ve read that matches that plot even more perfectly. If you have any ideas, please please let me know in the comments!

While I feel bad that this review is full of spoilers of the ending, I could have written a very similar review while halfway through this book. Much of the plot was quite predictable, and I had a feeling where it would all end up (the things I mentioned in the paragraphs before were strongly hinted at with how Carolyn Meyer expressed Marie’s thoughts and feelings).

Despite all of my disappointments, this book was very well written, and for someone going into it expecting a heartfelt story of a girl trying to live with poverty and family troubles, this could be a perfect book. Although this is not one of my favorite Carolyn Meyer books, I do look forward to continuing to read her Young Royals series, and I may attempt Loving Will Shakespeare as well.

This book counts for the School YA Bingo Challenge (in the category of A Book Set in Paris). 

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One comment on “Gwen’s Disappointment in Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer

  1. Pingback: School YA Bingo Challenge FINALE!! | Gwen & Kate's Library

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This entry was posted on January 30, 2015 by in Author: Gwen, Review, School YA Bingo Challenge, Young Adult and tagged , , .
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