The Snow Queen – Mardi McConnochie

I read this book in completely the wrong conditions. I’d never thought too much about how my life’s conditions really effected the quality of my reading but after giving it some thought during this read, I thought back and realised that so often it does. How many good books have we cast aside because of our own mental state? Or how many books that are generally marred as terrible are glorified because at the time we relate?
I read this book on the train (my usual reading venue, not ideal, but not overtly bad) but it happened to be during my last week of work, which turned out to be the busiest and most stressful of my entire time there. I had exactly the same amount of time I usually would but my head buzzed with the stresses and strains and thus my experience was diminished. Being a light read anyway I wasn’t overly concerned but I liked the idea it raised, that we as avid readers really do have such a deep connection with literature, so much so that how we feel directly impacts the story and its effect on us. I like that.
So the book. It really is a summer read. The type of book you should throw in your bag as you head out to the beach. It’s light, it’s pretty, it deals with fantastic human follies and its about ballet which of course makes you dream of your own childhood dance classes and the dormant thought that you should sign up for some adult ones.
The story follows Galina, a Russian Ballerina from her life in the Imperial Ballet School in pre revolutionary Russia, through her career with Ballet Ruses in France and how she came to be in Adelaide, South Australia. Galina begins writing her life story, as a way to set things straight, when a former colleague appears back in Adelaide and old wounds are reopened. Being a lover of all things ballet, the depiction of the ballet world is beautiful to read but it was the depiction of human characteristics that I liked most about this book. I love how Galina complains of the lack of discipline and commitment the little girls have to their ballet classes! It made me laugh out loud when she says ‘don’t they realise ballet is serious’. It was such a typical Australian folly seen through the eyes of a Russian. I also haven’t experienced ‘spite’ so well described on the page before. Galina has held onto her grudge towards her old colleague for over 20 years and she does it with so much Russian passion and vigor. Without ruining too much of the ending I also love how simple acts can wash away years of anger and rage in just a few seconds – so real, so true.
Although it isn’t the most amazing book in terms of style and language this really is a nice read. It’s an interesting story, takes you through interesting places and deals with real feelings and issues. So next time you are heading on a beach holiday or lazing at a picnic give it a go.
Rating: 4 Stars

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