In the City of Lights, at the dawn of a new age, begins an unforgettable story of great love, great art—and the most painful choices of the heart.
With this fresh and vibrantly imagined portrait of the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas, readers are transported through the eyes of a young Parisian ballerina to an era of light and movement. An ambitious and enterprising farm girl, Alexandrie joins the prestigious Paris Opera ballet with hopes of securing not only her place in society but her family’s financial future. Her plan is soon derailed, however, when she falls in love with the enigmatic artist whose paintings of the offstage lives of the ballerinas scandalized society and revolutionized the art world. As Alexandrie is drawn deeper into Degas’s art and Paris’s secrets, will she risk everything for her dreams of love and of becoming the ballet’s star dancer?
From Wagner's debut, a fictional portrait of an aspiring ballerina who inspires famous works of art by Edgar Degas, a living picture emerges of dancers at the turn-of-the-20th-century Paris Opera. After gangly 12-year-old Alexandrie's brother marries a girl even poorer than himself, Alexandrie becomes her provincial family's last hope for prosperity, and soon she's taking lessons in ballet and culture to prepare herself for Paris society. Once in Paris, Alexandrie follows star performer Cornelie's lead and quickly snags a prospective patron, but she's most powerfully drawn to Degas, who captures on canvas the dancers' beauty and humanity. Like Tracy Chevalier, Wagner imagines how layers of meaning pervade works of art, but her real forte is detailing the sexual politics of poverty and evoking the rivalry among dancers, especially between stars and the newcomers who wish to replace them. Wagner's description of art and sacrifice in old Paris doesn't have the heft of the classics, but her abandonment of the masterpiece-in-the-making formula is a nice turn.
A very interesting book....especially if you love art history.