cover image Granny Dan

Granny Dan

Danielle Steel. , $19.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31709-2

In a fable compact enough to be swallowed in a single gulp, the prolific Steel (Bittersweet) offers a granddaughter's tribute to Danina Petroskova, ""Granny Dan,"" a Russian immigrant who left the glamorous world of the St. Petersburg Ballet and lived thereafter as a Vermont housewife. The unnamed narrator always loved her grandmother, with her elegant braided hair, roller skates and soft Russian accent. Granny Dan rarely speaks of her life in Russia before the revolution, but when she dies, at almost 90, the narrator inherits a pair of ballet shoes and a packet of love letters that tell the dramatic story of her former existence. Committed at age seven to the ballet, in her teens Danina becomes a prima ballerina who enchants the czar and czarina, becoming the royal children's boon companion. Stricken by influenza at 19, Danina's life is saved by Czarevitch Alexei's physician, Nikolai Obrajensky, with whom she falls passionately in love. This fairy tale is fully outfitted with dreamy details such as ermine-trimmed gowns, covered sleighs and royal balls in glittering palaces. The historical technicalities are glossed over: in this book the Russian czar is a nice man who let the revolution go too far because he wanted his people to express their feelings. The love story is pure melodrama, with Nikolai a princely man married to a ""dreadful Englishwoman,"" and the couple tormented by their unquenchable passions, lofty joys and ultimate tragedy. Steel doesn't unfold the plot so much as restate the same point: that Granny Dan led an extraordinary life of romance and heartbreak; this slim confection holds few surprises in telling the Cinderella story in reverse. (June)