cover image Pippa Passes

Pippa Passes

Rumer Godden. William Morrow & Company, $22 (171pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13397-9

Set in 20th-century Venice, this effervescent, thoroughly enchanting modern-day fairy tale is spiked with a handful of up-to-date plot twists. At 17, lovely, fresh-scrubbed Pippa Fane is the youngest, least experienced member of an English dance troupe on tour in Italy. Arriving in Venice, Pippa is swept away by the ancient city's magic-and intrigued by Nicolo, the handsome gondolier whom she twice encounters on the first day of her stay. Nicolo, protege of the gracious Marchesa dell'Orlando, pursues Pippa, hoping that she will sing with his band when they play at the prestigious Hotel Imperiale. Meanwhile, Pippa's dancing career leaps ahead, thanks to a convenient accident and the machinations of the company's ballet mistress, Angharad Fullerton. Unfortunately, Angharad is not the fairy godmother Pippa imagines, and her attempted seduction of the young dancer results in an ugly, disturbing mess. With the help of the marchesa, however, Pippa triumphs as both a dancer and a singer. When the time comes to choose between her blossoming career as a dancer and a role offering a more conventional happy ending, Pippa mines wisdom from her recent experiences to make the right decision. In less able hands, these highly romantic goings-on would seem contrived, but Godden's graceful storytelling keeps readers enthralled, with gorgeous Venice and the nitty-gritty of the dance troupe's routine providing a convincing backdrop for her winsome ingenue. (Nov.)