Drina Dances

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that my friend Suzanne had generously lent me (almost) all the Drina ballet books (I think there are 11 in the series and Suzanne was able to lend me nine). To date, I've read up to number 7, Drina Dances In Paris, though volume 6, Drina Dances in New York, is missing. The first book was published in 1957 and the series seems to have continued at the rate of one a year, though the final book was apparently written much later (I haven't been able to pin down the first publication date, and I don't have a copy).

It's been an interesting experience to read a whole series like this from the beginning, with no baggage of childhood memories or nostalgia to colour my views. I've actually enjoyed these books very much. I do find it very soothing to read what I call 'antique fiction' like this; I almost feel I can suspend my critical faculties completely and just relax into the story. I've written before about how much I relish the period details of books written so many decades ago - the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the incidental ephemera of everyday life, the social attitudes, the figures of speech - it's all fascinating, the closest I'll ever get to time travel!

The books themselves are almost completely uneventful -- I can't imagine they'd stand up to modern publishing demands for incident and action! Whole books can go by without anything more dramatic happening than Drina twisting her ankle or almost being late for a performance. In book 6 (the one I haven't got) she falls in love at the age of nearly fifteen, and she spends most of book 7 wistfully yearning; even when her beloved unexpectedly turns up in Paris, they don't even get as far as holding hands! No wonder it takes them another four books to actually get together!

Drina is an appealing character, emotional and sensitive (it's because she's half-Italian, dontcha know!), though she remains quite implausibly humble, still astonished after 7 books that the directors of the school actually know her name -- even after she's guest-starred in plays, filled in for ill dancers in Italy and played Little Clara in The Nutcracker... The cards certainly seem to fall Drina's way, and you can hardly blame her enemies/rivals at the ballet school for their jealousy. When they complain that 'Drina gets everything!' you can't help feeling that, well, actually, they do have a point...

Drina's Big Secret is that she's the daughter of prima ballerina Elizabeth Ivory, who died when Drina was only a baby. Drina's been brought up by her grandmother, who feels that ballet killed her daughter and was determined to keep Drina from dancing - but Drina gets her own way (obviously). Being Ivory's daughter is the ballet equivalent of being the Chosen One, and Drina's determination not to trade on her mother's name, but make her own way on talent alone, is very attractive.

I can't wait to see Drina Dance in Madeira, and  In Switzerland, and go On Tour... not long to go! Hm, I wonder if Drina will succeed in her ambition?? Something tells me she might!

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