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The Chosen Maiden Paperback – January 17, 2017
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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"A tale of intrigue, love, betrayal and redemption set in the realm of art and artists, exploring the line between dedication and obsession, creation and madness. . . . Stachniak weaves together beautifully the myriad moments that bring this fascinating family and period to life." —Toronto Star
"[Stachniak] exquisitely blends fiction with fact in this novel about the remarkable ballet dancers Vaslav and Bronia Nijinsky. . . [and] brilliantly brings the story of Bronia, the lesser-known Nijinsky, to life. She has an excellent command of the period and the dance world and an ability to draw characters who will enrapture the reader." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Carefully researched and capaciously imagined. . . . More than just an absorbing historical account of an avant-garde artist, The Chosen Maiden is a fully-realized tale of family, love, loss and enduring resilience." —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls
"Many works of fiction take as their inspiration true events and persons of historical significance, but few do so as lovingly and imaginatively. . . . The Chosen Maiden delves into the workings of an artist's mind and reveals the resiliency of art in a time of worldwide political upheaval and war. . . . A remarkable work of historical fiction." —Quill & Quire
"Exquisite. . . . Dance fans will welcome this graceful and entrancing foray into the recent past." —Library Journal
"Reading The Chosen Maiden is like entering Aladdin's Cave, where a vivid, strange and enchanting world awaits. It is the thrilling world of the Great Nijinsky and his passionate and unforgettable sister Bronia, whose discipline and talent rival her famous brother's, but whose greatest genius may be her will to survive. Spanning two world wars and the Russian Revolution, Eva Stachniak's sumptuous and evocative dance of the Chosen Maiden is the dance of 20th century history." —Shaena Lambert, author of Oh, My Darling and Radiance
"Eva Stachniak is every bit as good at invoking Imperial Russia as Hilary Mantel is in conjuring up the Tudor era in England." —Carol Bishop-Gwyn, author of The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca
"I absolutely adored The Chosen Maiden! Such masterful, sensitive writing, I was immersed from the first page to the last. Eva Stachniak illuminates those historic pathways, blazed at such personal cost, by the 'dance-greats.' Most of all, I loved the humanizing of these characters—Bronia, Vaslav, Sergei Diaghilev—who imprinted their genius on our culture, whose names are so familiar, but whose origins and inner lives were not—until now." —Veronica Tennant, author of On Stage, Please, filmmaker and prima ballerina
About the Author
EVA STACHNIAK was born in Wrocław, Poland. She came to Canada in 1981 and has worked for Radio Canada International and Sheridan College, where she taught English and Humanities. She is the bestselling author of The Winter Palace, Empress of the Night, Necessary Lies and Garden of Venus. She lives in Toronto.
Top customer reviews
“Talent breeds resentment; brilliance attracts envy. Lesser souls seek comfort in bringing down those who are admitted into the company of gods.”
“They are persistent, our ghosts. Huddling behind us, dark and sticky, ravenous for any scraps of life we can still feed them.”
“If I were to dance these words, I would dance the drops of rain falling on parched earth. Soaking in, moisturizing the dormant seeds.”
“Dreams, even the impossible ones, do not die but find their own surprising paths. Become a canvas into which I still keep weaving new, colorful threads.”
“If we could see, in fast motion, a film of the people we descended from, what odd dance would we see?”
Stachniak immerses the reader in the period and in the locales. This immersion is accomplished by attention to details, especially details as they pertain to all of our senses. You will feel, hear, smell and taste your way through this novel. This may well bore some readers for this is a methodical process which will ideally make the world of the work seem to be your world as well, at least for a short period of time. I feel she succeeded here far more than she failed. That said, if you mainly want a book to skip along and simply tell you what happens, you may find yourself drifting off, so be warned.
While this is about famous dancers and the highest echelons of the art world of the time this novel works for a wider audience because it is about human relationships first and foremost. Family dynamics, societal and cultural norms expressed or enacted in the mundane day-to-day living of life. This is where the book truly shines. The research and the factual skeleton around which the novel comes to life is certainly essential but it is the aspects of life that are more universal that touches the reader's heart.
I would recommend this to readers of historical fiction and fans of ballet with the warning I gave earlier in mind about this being an immersive presentation. For those interested in social and cultural aspects there are many points which would likely reward further research into the period and how far, if at all, we have come as a society.
Reviewed from a copy made available through Goodreads' First Reads.
Bronia lived and danced under the shadow of her more famous older brother, and they were the children of Polish parents who were dancers in Russia with the Lukovitch troupe. Both Bronia and Vaslav were prodigies and attended the Russian Imperial Ballet School. Not only is the novel filled with details about the ballet, it is also rich with Russian history during the turbulent times before and after the Revolution. It is rich in description, vivid with sights, smells, and so powerful that the reader feels immersed in the world of dance along with the horrors of war. The glories of performing mixed with the deprivations of a country that produced so many influential artists, composers and dancers. Bronia came into her own and became famous in her own right, but not without a lot of pain and sacrifice.
"Dancing is breathing. It is in me, woven into my body," declares Bronia. She and her brother travel and work together and she watches his meteoric rise as his talent is so amazing. He is a demanding artist and performer, but includes her in his newly composed ballets, naming her as the "Chosen Maiden" -- a piece quite unlike the usual classical ballets embraced by the aristocracy at the time. "The Chosen Maiden is a warrior, not a dying swan." Bronia had a very difficult life with much loss, but she always got up again no matter what curves life threw at her.
Fascinating and absorbing, this book called out to the researcher in me and I plan to read more about these dancers. I think anyone who is interested in dance would like this book.
I have read other books by this author, specifically the two about Catherine the Great, as I am also quite taken with Russian history. Enjoy!