Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper by Elizabeth Kiem
|Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper by Elizabeth Kiem
|Reviewer: Julia Jones
|Summary: Three generations of Dukovskaya ballerinas have danced the role of The Chosen One with the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet. As a reader I was completely involved and absorbed in the adventures of the youngest dancer desperate to express her art in the murky cultural politics of modern Russia.
|Date: October 2014
|Publisher: Soho Teen
|External links: Author's website
I was caught up by this novel from the first pages and read it with absorption in a single sitting. The young heroine, Lana Dukovskaya, is a third generation ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet but the experiences of her mother and grandmother are shrouded and lost. Her grandmother's name, we discover, has been erased from the records and her mother is a troubled secretive figure. Lana challenges the conventional notion of a ballerina: she has close cropped hair, loves high speed motor bikes and most of all she wants to experiment with the repertoire.
Lana is rebellious, angry and too well aware of the situation of the Bolshoi in the new Russia of oligarchs and corruption: The Bolshoi was once our crown Jewel. Now it's a blood diamond. Elizabeth Kiem, the author, lived in Russia for four years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of the pleasures of Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper is the way she allows Lana's patchy, gradual discovery of of her mother and grandmother's histories to be a gradual discovery of three generations of Russian history. This is not obtrusive – the exciting storyline remains central – but it's there and it's appropriate for the Young Adult audience for whom this book is written as well as for adults, like me, who will also enjoy this book.
As readers we are with Lana. Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper is written in the first person and the present tense. We travel with Lana from Moscow to New York via windowless practice rooms, rich men's mansions and cheap hotels. The place where Lana seems most truly herself is on stage. The central motif of the story is the solo role as The Chosen One, performing the Danse Sacrale in Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. I rarely go to the ballet these days but Kiem convinced me effortlessly of the feelings and physical exertions of the dancer as well the emotions and ambitions – the politics in fact – that might surround such a pivotal role. These are the moments that will remain in my mind from this exciting, accessible thriller.
Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper is the second volume in a series and while I didn't feel I was missing anything, I shall certainly be buying the first.
Personally I felt much of the same pleasure reading this novel as I did when I read Philip Kerr's The Winter Horses which is also set in Russia, though in an earlier historical period. That too will appeal equally to the adult and the teen reader. For younger readers who love ballet there's Ballet Stories by Margaret Greaves and Lisa Kopper. For adults Lucy Moore's recent biography of Nijinsky comes highly recommended.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper by Elizabeth Kiem at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper by Elizabeth Kiem at Amazon.com.
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