In Foster’s (Boulevard Beausejour, 2017, etc.) novel, a prima ballerina struggles with her impending divorce while trying to maintain her sanity amid grueling rehearsals and performances.
Charlotte Darling, now in her early 50s, has had a successful career as the principal dancer for the New York City Ballet. She’s wealthy, world-famous, and beautiful, and it would seem, at first glance, that she has the perfect life. But the members of Charlotte’s inner circle know of her personal misery—her depression, her self-destructive tendencies, her unhealthy eating habits. It’s anyone’s guess how she manages to stagger through rehearsals after consuming nothing but Cheetos and M&Ms. Her husband has squandered almost all of her fortune, and they’re filing for divorce. In the midst of all this, Charlotte is working on her autobiography. Readers are given glimpses into her childhood and rise to fame as she writes her book, which becomes the one thing she can control in her life, giving her a sense of comfort. But will her self-sabotaging tendencies ultimately prevent her from finishing it? And with another show in the works, everyone’s starting to wonder whether this will be Charlotte’s last performance. Overall, Foster offers an intricate character study. Indeed, the novel is sometimes reminiscent of the 2010 film Black Swan, offering a similarly painful, unflinching chronicle of the slow descent of a talented ballerina. But this tale uniquely offers the viewpoint of a dancer who’s well past her prime, fighting to hold on by any means necessary. Over the course of the story, the author is often keenly observant; for instance, when Charlotte’s friend Charles de Moret catches her doing cocaine, she remains defiant: “I know what you are going to say, Charles. Save it…I need this to dance. No one my age can do this twice a day without help.” Some of the dialogue, though, lacks vitality and has a monotone quality. Also, Charlotte isn’t always a likable character, but she’s effectively shown to be a product of her pitiless fame.
A tense tale that professional dancers and their admirers will particularly appreciate.