Marie Dancing

Carolyn Meyer, Author . Harcourt/Gulliver $17 (255p) ISBN 978-0-15-205116-7

As with her Young Royals series, Meyer's ability to sweep readers to another time and place while bringing historic figures to life once again results in a mesmerizing novel. Here she offers an imaginative rendering of Marie van Goethem, the impoverished young dancer who inspired Degas's famous sculpture, Petite danseuse de quatorze ans. Marie's widowed mother earns a meager salary as a laundress and drowns her sorrows in alcohol. Her one dream is that her three daughters will become accomplished enough as dancers to attract the attention of wealthy men. Already, Marie's older sister, Antoinette, has received several gifts from gentlemen. Disgusted by Antoinette's flirtatious ways, Marie chooses to take a different path by agreeing to model for the famous artist Degas. Inside the artist's studio, Marie glimpses a new world filled with beauty and mystery (and makes the acquaintance of American artist Mary Cassatt). Degas promises to make Marie famous by immortalizing her in a statuette, but meanwhile, Marie's family life becomes increasingly desperate, threatening to interfere with her career as a dancer. Using words in place of brush strokes, the author paints a harsh and honest portrayal of a dancer's life in Paris during the 1800s. Marie's brief encounter with fame is overshadowed by the many hardships she endures and the sacrifices she must make in order to keep her family together. Heart-wrenching and enlightening, this gritty story celebrates artistic accomplishment even as it reveals the human suffering often required to achieve it. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 11/07/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
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