"Dancer" is the often shocking story of Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev as told through the eyes of those close to him. We learn of his growing up years from both his sister and his first ballet teacher, the outcast Anna Vasileva. His formative teenage years are recounted by Anna's daughter, Yulia, who is stuck in a loveless marriage but whom is afraid to escape and buck tradition. We learn of his dancing years through the eyes of his close friend, Victor, who also reveals the often shocking details of the lives of the gay celebrity set. All of these stories and more come together to form a picture of a man who came from an underprivileged background to become a world-famous ballet dancer who never stopped striving for perfection.
While reading this book I found that I had to remind myself that Rudolf Nureyev was an actual living, breathing person. The stories were larger than life and absolutely fascinating. This book is more than a simple biography of Nureyev's life and his dancing; it becomes a tribute to him as well as to his art. Colum McCann's lyrical writing style was easily recognizable in the way that his words wrapped around each other to form something resembling poetry.
This novel should not be read while multi-tasking. It requires full attention; at times I got a little lost (there were many players in the life of Rudolf Nureyev) but after a little backtracking I was able to figure out who was telling the story at that point. In the end the time that it took to fully digest this book was worth it; it is an unforgettable story of triumph over humble beginnings and of refusing to fit into the norm. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has read "Let the Great World Spin" and enjoyed it as much as I did.
Thank-you to Heather at Picador for this review copy!