Dancing on Thorns – Rebecca Horsfall

This book was a loan from my mum. She reminded me of a children’s book series I’d loved – Ballet for Laura by Linda Blake – and told me it was like that, but for grown ups.

Well, she wasn’t far off – and can I just have a moment to acknowledge the weirdness of borrowing a book that is full of naughty bits from my mum?! Mum. I’m SHOCKED.

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Everything I loved about ballet books as a little girl, I loved about Dancing on Thorns. It captures the glamour and the strain; the beauty and the brutality of ballet – to be fair, there’s a bit more brutality in this one than in Laura’s Summer Ballet! The story follows Michel, a French/English dancer, from his childhood through his life in ballet, exploring the sacrifices, disasters and triumphs, and relationship rollercoasters along the way.

Fair warning; there is a fair proportion of NSFW material (again I say – Mummy, I am SHOCKED!) but far from being a badly-strung-together melodrama, this book is really well written. I was fully absorbed in the narrative all the way through – even while I didn’t like the protagonist very much (which was for a good chunk of the story). That, to me, is a mark of an author who’s mastered her craft – if I care about the character even though I don’t like the character, that’s excellent writing!

You don’t need to know anything about ballet to read this – although an appreciation for the art form certainly helps – and it’s definitely not for younger readers. I’ll certainly be on the look out for anything else by Horsfall, though.

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