When I was a lot younger, girls used to enjoy books set in ballet schools. Tendu is set in a ballet school but it’s not to be confused with stories like Belle of the Ballet.
Ailish Sinclair’s school is like no ballet school I’ve ever heard of. For a start, there are just seven students. Plus, the school is set in a Scottish castle (familiar to anyone who’s read Sinclair’s The Mermaid and the Bear). Most of the classes are conducted in a dungeon where a sinister ex-ballerina is wiring students up to analyse their brain patterns while they dance mysterious choreography that seems to give them some sort of super-powers.
Within this basic set-up there’s lots of room for the sort of relationship issues which might have been familiar to Belle of the Ballet. There’s the bitchy girl and the sweet girl and the boy that Amalphia (our heroine) has a long-time crush on. Belle of the Ballet probably didn’t have a gay best friend like Justin, but times have moved on since the 1950s and Justin is a lovely character.
I have friends who have been involved with professional ballet, so the bitchiness and the enthusiastic approach to sex was hardly shocking, though the key relationship between 19 year-old Amalphia and her 38 year-old teacher, Aleks, made me a little uncomfortable, as I was reading just as the Russell Brand story broke. As they swung wildly between emotional break-ups and fabulous make-up sex, I couldn’t help feeling that Amalphia, whose point of view we are seeing this from, is basically a teenage girl, wildly out of her depth in this relationship. The suggestion from one of her lover’s friends that she is just vanilla has her desperately trying to become more adventurous in her efforts to keep up with her rich, sophisticated boyfriend. I kept willing her to run. Run now! Don’t look back and keep running.
No spoilers, but she keeps starting to run and then looks back and then there is more passionate make-up sex. It certainly makes for a hugely readable and entertaining story and, in the end, Amalphia is not my daughter, so who am I to judge? Amalphia’s mother isn’t going to be any help. She is (let’s be blunt about this) a bitch, constantly undermining her daughter. So passionate encounters continue unabated.
Aleks has a Past, which intrudes from time to time, and he can’t resist trying to make Amalphia jealous – and she falls for it every time. Did I mention that she’s well out of her depth?
Meanwhile, Michelle, the mysterious ex-ballerina, continues her increasingly bizarre experiments, building towards a climax that is totally crazy but hugely entertaining.
So there we have it: mad experiments, paranormal powers, exciting dance sequences and lots and lots of sex. And did I mention the mystical forces in the old stone circle?
It’s insane, but hugely entertaining. Ailish Sinclair is a lovely writer and I powered through the book, though trying to pull together a remotely coherent review has taken rather longer. Let yourself go and enjoy the ride!
Buy the book
Also publishing this month …
The latest Galbraith & Pole book, Monsters in the Mist, will be published in time for Halloween. I’ll be writing about it on my blog on Friday. Watch out for the cover reveal and more news.