The Cranes Dance is a story of two sisters, both professional ballerinas with the NY Ballet. Narrated by the elder of the two sisters, Kate Crane, the novel deals with the pressure of professional dance combined with the already difficult task of growing up. The narrator’s voice is one of absolute honesty - when it comes to others. We witness Kate come to terms with her sister's psychological problems and eventually with her own.The descriptions of the everyday life of a ballerina with all the typical restrictions in terms of food and free time and Kate's problems to form meaningful relationships in such a competitive world are probably the most interesting aspect of the novel.
All of this is done while employing the metaphorical language of dance and especially ballet to convey relationships and emotions. Kate's view of professional ballet and the "literary" material used in this specific art form become a means of describing Kate's psyche as well as her relationships with other people. Even though we are in her head, we can never be sure to really know the narrator since it is only in the end that she starts to understand herself a little better.
Yes, this is a book about ballet, and yes it has long descriptions of the technique and plot summaries of various ballets - however, all of this is done in the slightly cynic and snotty voice of a character who has pretty much grown up on stage and has lost - or maybe never developed - that sense of sanctity and grace that tends to be associated with this art form. The writing is definitely beautiful and the narrative voice is unique and captivating.
The similarities to a certain ballet movie starring Natalie Portman are definitely there. Meg Howrey probably won't like that comparison but I kept thinking about the movie the whole time. The book seems to have been published after the movie was released and if I understood that part correctly there even is a little stab in the direction that production.
I can only say that I loved that movie and I loved this novel - for similar reasons.