Tuesday 14 April 2009

Dancer by Collum McCann

It's a fictional story about Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nurejev. From his humble and poor Tatar upbringing, to when he studied at the famous Kirov in St Petersburg, to his jump to the west where he was adored by royalty and celebrities. And to his ultimate fall, his love affairs which brings him to his deathbed in Aids.

My problem with real characters is that I always have to google them, so yes I knew that he defected (not like I wouldn't have otherwise, he was too big for Soviet), and that he would die of Aids. )

I loved this book, ask me to explain and I don't know why. It just took me by surprise, McCann is a master with words and he knows how to spin a story. It all begins with soldiers coming home from WWII, and how they are bathed in Rudolfs home town of Ufa. It's glimpses out to the real world and they are shown through out the book.

"They looked out over the steppe and saw the bodies of fellow soldiers, a hand in the air, a knee in a stretch, beards frozen with frost, and they leaned to steal the dead man's clothes before he became stiffened in them, and they leaned in to whisper, Sorry comrade thanks for the tobacco.

Rather then seeing the world through his eyes, we see the world around him through those of his friends, family, and strangers. And in the beginning through his eyes the sentences are short, like thoughts sometimes. He is so busy so he only thinks of the things he must do to get better. The thing I then love is the fact that we see the world though the eyes of others, not only what they think about him, but how they are feeling. Hungry, tired, loved, everything that is crucial in life. I truly enjoy these glimpses into their lives. Some are fictional and some of them are real. McCann is not afraid to show the real world, and not some glamour bubble around one of the worlds greatest dancers.

Even though I do love this book, the end of the 3rd part and the 4th part gets tiresome. There is a lot of how he screwed everything that moved through out the 60's to the 80's. He really should be in sex addicts anonymous. Not to mention that is what killed him. Not explicit sex scenes no this is not that kind of book. But it's just so much, and it's so depressing.

Still it's a lovely portrait of a man loved by ballet fans. McCann waves the fabric of his life into a wonderful tapestry which I highly recommend to all. He shows him to be what he was, arrogant and temperamental, still loved by all. They couldn't help it.

And since he was so beautiful that everyone wanted him I do have to leave you with a photo since I didn't know how he looked either.

Nurejev and Fonteyn:



  1. Good Morning Blodeuedd:

    This is a book I would like to read. I do remember Nurejev very well because I saw him dance here in Toronto with the National Ballet. I can't remember which ballet it was, maybe "Swan Lake". I have never seen a dancer leap as high as he could. The man was indeed a talent.

    It is indeed a shame that his life ended the way it did.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about another interesting novel.

    Warm Regards

  2. Sounds like a great book to read. I am not very much into the dancing and ballet world so I never heard of the Nurejev guy but I'd like to find out more and for this I should read the book.

  3. Hi Lea
    Really, you saw him dance! That is great, when I read the book I wished I could have seen him dance... :( well there is always youtube. But not really the same thing.

    You are welcome :) It was such a nice, and strange novel in a way, in the way he had written it that is. But it suited the purpose. I liked the style change of it.

  4. Hi Lilly,
    Truth to be told, I had never heard about him either, never been into ballet either. But they made it interesting and I never understood how much work it takes, and how painful it is.

    I do recommend it

  5. Hi Blodeuedd!

    Russia produced so many great ballet artists and gymnasts. They were so powerful. Rudolf Nurejev and Michel Barishnikov were two of my favorites, both defeated. Michel is still active, but no dancing that I know of (61 years old now). Rudolf Nurejev was so pretty to watch, to bad Aids ended his life-he could have been a great teacher.

    Dottie :)

  6. Hi Dottie,
    They sure have produced some amazing dancers. It sure makes me want to go and see a ballet. It would sure be enjoyable.
    And yes he would have been a great teacher, so sad that he never got the chance too. At least he kept on dancing.

  7. Wonderful review! To tell you the truth, I don't know if I could read this book. I had being left off on a negative note. I'm sure the story was wonderful, but I think I love romance fiction so much because I generally always am left with a happy ending.

    I have read quite a few biographies, but this one sounds so sad. To bring yourself up from nothing, to have such a sad end.

  8. Barbara, I also love happy endings, I need them. I guess what worked in this one is that McCann finished the book with an auction of some sold items. He never said that Nurejev died, or how. If I hadn't known, well I might have wondered..

    So no, not for those who want a happy ending,but still a great read.

  9. wonderful round up. I like the fact that although in your opinion the book was world breaking - but you loved it for all the simply reasons that you described...

    The hint of smut is always better than the actual explicit act.

    I saw a tribute to him (a short skit) to him at Saddlers Wells a while ago - students - but they were really good.


    Loved your thoughts on this book...

  10. Thanks E.H. :)
    And yes it was really the simple facts that made me love it.

    Oh yes, a hint is better than the act. It would not have fitted this book at all.

    Cool :D
    I am glad I read this book and learned soemthing along the way.

  11. Wonderful Review!

    Unfortunately, I must have an HEA and also, I'm really a romance reader at heart. But your review was very interesting to read. I don't know anything about dance and ballet since I'm highly incordinated. :)


  12. Really nice review, even though it probably wouldnt be something I'd read.

    There's an award waiting for you at my place


  13. VFG,

    That I do undestand, I love my HEA. It's like with the movie Gladiator, I love it, but cannot watch to the end. I truly need a book now with a good HEA to chear me up.

    Teddyree, thank you so much :D
    I am so flattered.

  14. I've never heard of him, but his story sounds interesting. Thanks for the review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  15. Hi Anna,
    Never thought ballet was for me either but this book made me wanna go and see a show



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