Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Beneath the Parisian Skies

Title: Beneath the Parisian Skies
Author: Alli Sinclair
Publisher: 19 June 2017 Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 306 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary, womens fiction, romance, ballet
My Rating: 4 cups


Lily Johansson returns to Paris, the city that broke her heart and destroyed her ballet career, hoping to ease the guilt over her fiance's death and to make amends with her estranged sister Natalie, a ballerina with the Boheme Ballet.

Terrified of loving again, Lily nevertheless finds herself becoming entangled with the driven composer Yves Rousseau. Lily has many reasons for keeping Yves at arm's length but as he recounts the colour, drama and intensity of the Ballets Russes in 1917, the magic of this Bohemian era ignites a spark within her.

Meanwhile, cast in the role of honouring Ballet Russes dancer Viktoriya Budian, Lily's sister Natalie develops an unhealthy obsession. Natalie's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as elements of Viktoriya's tragic life resonate in her own. Lily fears for her sister's safety and sanity so when Natalie goes missing, she and Yves set out on a desperate quest across France to find her and, along the way, battle their own demons.

Could the search for her sister, lead Lily to realise that ballet -- like love and life -- should not be abandoned so easily?

My Thoughts

‘Ballet is medicine in its own way. Think of this—with the world falling apart, isn’t it good to escape reality and go to the theatre?‘

I was happy to read another Alli Sinclair book with her strong focus on dance - I was not disappointed. In fact, I found this one to probably be her best so far. I do however feel, that the synopsis does not do justice in inviting people to this read. Very little is made of the 1917 plot, and to my mind, that was by far the strongest and most compelling story.

This tale is indeed set over two time periods - Lily in the modern day and Viktoriya in 1917. I do love a good dual time narrative and whilst this one was good, as mentioned, the 1917 storyline was by far the stronger. Yes, Lily and her sister had many trials and tribulations to endure (at times getting a little bogged down) and obstacles to overcome. Unfortunately I found both sisters to be petulant and shockingly moody and indecisive. At times I couldn’t wait to return to 1917, it became that uncomfortable. Yves was an absolute saint to put up with Lily as her behaviour was so frustrating.

‘Thankfully, he had the good sense not to question her change in mood.’

Do not let that distract you, however, from the superb story of the ballet world of Paris, 1917. Through a great grandmother and long lost diaries, the link is made between the modern and historical story. Here I was fully engaged with the struggles many of the characters went through. Viktoriya Budian was dedicated and found solace in her ballet. 

‘The only time you fully come to life is when pointes are on your feet and the stage light is shining in your eyes.’

Escaping from Russia and it’s revolutionary period, Viktoriya arrives in Paris to start anew with the famed Ballets Russes. The amount of research Alli has done here, detailing fascinating facts from this time period, is most noteworthy. With World War I still ongoing, ballet did indeed provide a much needed escape and Alli brings many famous faces back to life:

‘Despite the war raging across Europe, Parisians sought solace by immersing themselves in the arts, especially with Picasso, Satie, Matisse and Proust.’

Against this backdrop, Alli brings a story of this Russian girl and all she has worked so hard for, threatening to collapse around her. You will be on the edge of your seat as you witness her life spiral out of control through no fault of her own. There is such sadness and yet moments of pure exhilaration. Overall, I recommend this book, especially so if you are at all interested in ballet. 

‘The storm clouds that had permanently hung over the Paris of her mind had drifted away and were replaced by a magnificent blue now that she had found her home beneath the Parisian skies.’

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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