June 9, 2012

Review: The Cranes Dance

By Meg Howrey
Available now from Vintage  (Random House)
Review copy

The book cover does not want to work with me right now and I'm too tired to deal with it tonight.  You can see it here.

I am on fire, guys.  Books that I love keep falling into my lap.  I haven't had a reading streak this good in ages.  I feel like I need to make a sacrifice to the book gods before I offend them with my good fortune.

Kate Crane is a soloist in a ballet company in New York City.  Her younger sister is a principal in that same company.  (For those who know nothing about ballet, principal is better than soloist.)  But her younger sister is now at home recovering from a nervous breakdown.  And Kate just threw out her neck.

I wanted to read THE CRANES DANCE because I love reading about ballet, but I was afraid it was going to be one of those books that earns its literary cred by being unrelentingly sad.  I was definitely satisfied on the ballet side.  Meg Howrey writes about the sport/the art with confidence and knowledge.  The ballets are also summarized perfectly.  Kate mocks the plots and the motions, but she does it with love and familiarity.  As for sadness, there were many sad parts.  There were times I was afraid that Kate would give into her worst self-destructive impulses.

But THE CRANES DANCE balances everything out by being funny.  Kate's voice, always conversational, is full of dry, black humor.  I would quote my favorite part, but it's inappropriate for this blog.  Many characters make it clear that she's often distant and intimidating, and it's interesting to separate the things she actually does and says from her inner monologue.  I will quote what is possibly my second favorite set of lines.  It's an old sentiment well said.
"Just tell me what you want," said Klaus.  "I don't know what you want."
Ah, we had come to this.  Since the dawn of time has man said thus to woman.
- p. 191, ARC
Sisterly rivalry isn't a new topic either, but Howrey addresses the theme with emotional authenticity.  Kate both wants the best for her sister and hates that she never got a chance to shine on her own.  And shining is extremely important to people who spend their lives onstage.

THE CRANES DANCE is a powerful tale of ambition and rivalry told with sarcasm and verve.  Meg Howrey can exit the stage to a standing ovation.


  1. Holy cow are you on a roll! Great review!! I don't read contemps and I want to read this!!

    Are you even sleeping tonight??? hee hee!!

    1. I slept indeed! I do not function without sleep.

  2. Kind of jealous about your reading streak-I'm in a bit of a funk.

    I really liked this book too-I love ballet books and books with a sister-sister relationship so those parts were deeply satisfying but I also loved the humor to balance out the darker bits. Just all-around quite good.

    1. I'm glad to meet a fellow fan of the book!

      I hate reading funks. I had a long one during part of last year.


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