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Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Last Days of The Romanov Dancers

Title:  The Last Days Of The Romanov Dancers
Author: Kerri Turner
Publisher: 21st January 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, historical fiction
My Rating: 4 crowns

Petrograd, 1914. A country on a knife edge. The story of two people caught in the middle - with everything to lose...
A stunning debut from a talented new Australian voice in historical fiction. Valentina Yershova's position in the Romanovs' Imperial Russian Ballet is the only thing that keeps her from the clutches of poverty. With implacable determination, she has clawed her way through the ranks, relying not only on her talent but her alliances with influential men that grant them her body, but never her heart. Then Luka Zhirkov - the gifted son of a factory worker - joins the company, and suddenly everything she has built is put at risk.
For Luka, being accepted into the company fulfils a lifelong dream. But in the eyes of his proletariat father, it makes him a traitor. As civil war tightens its grip and the country starves, Luka is torn between his growing connection to Valentina and his guilt for their lavish way of life.
For the Imperial Russian Ballet has become the ultimate symbol of Romanov indulgence, and soon the lovers are forced to choose: their country, their art or each other...

My Thoughts

The Last of the Romanov Dancers is the debut novel by Aussie author Kerri Turner and is a good combination of fact and fiction on a well versed topic but with a fresh twist. An intriguing historical venture into Russian ballet during the dying days of the Romanov rule.

This is a well researched book detailing lives - both real and fiction - during pre revolution Russia and branches across all levels of the social spectrum. Struggling with their involvement in WW2, the balance between the ‘have and have nots’ was coming into stark contrast in war torn Russia. Jealousy and hate at the forefront, as the lives of the royal family (with guest appearances by Rasputin) seemingly in sharp contrast to the ordinary Russian struggling to live on the street. With a focus on the Imperial Russian ballet - something the aristocracy thought would prove a worthy distraction to the war effort - all badly backfired and was held up as the ultimate symbol of everything they were fighting against.

‘He couldn’t stand to be there any more, with people who were so ready to ignore those who had already lost so much and were desperately trying to survive off less food than was left over on the silver plates they dined from. What was more, he needed to get away from them so he could try to convince himself that he wasn’t becoming one of them.’

This is where a fresh insight is provided for this well versed period in history as it is told through the eyes of the dancers. Kerri Turner (an obvious dancer herself) presents the world of ballet with everything from Swan Lake roles, to blistered feet from pointe shoes and the various ballet movements and technique. You are taken into the heart of the Imperial Russian ballet of the day where politics, deception and intrigue rule the way.

Throw into this mix of revolutionaries and ballerinas, two lovers caught in what would prove to be, a catastrophic crossfire, and you have a well rounded story.  At its core, however, this is a love story. Luka Zhirkov - a gifted dancer but from a proletariat background and Valentina Yershova who exchanges physical relationships with a ‘Protector’ in order to have influence in the ballet company. This is perhaps the slight downfall of the novel, as undoubtedly one can hazard an accurate guess of how this story will play out and the ultimate conclusion it will arrive at.

Still, I recommend this for lovers of historical fiction, particularly for the fresh perspective it brings to this revolutionary state with the interesting cultural aspect of Russian ballet.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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