Tuesday 3 August 2021

The Turnout by Megan Abbott Blog Tour

 I'll admit, I'm no dancer (not from want or trying) but that doesn't stop me enjoying the world of dance, watching and admiring.

I've read books based around ballet before but when I heard about Megan Abbotts' latest novel The Turnout, I was immediately intrigued. 

Described as dark and mesmerising, making Black Swan look like a children's story, I was left wondering what possible direction could this author take the story? Surely the idea of ballet is just to beautiful to be so disturbing?


Ballet flows through their veins. Dara and Marie Durant were dancers since birth, with their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, back broken after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around each other, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutcracker, a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, an interloper arrives and threatens the delicate balance of everything they've worked for.

This isn't just a story about ballet. Rather a tale about family, business and pleasure. Can a concoction of the three really work?

Split into four parts, this novel is filled with an eerie atmosphere right from the start. It sort of crackles in the background of every scene.

The story follows three characters. Dara and Marie Durant, who are sisters and Dara's now husband Charlie, who has lived with them since he was thirteen years old. They own a somewhat prestigious ballet school, that although quite run down, is still just as popular as it was when their mother ran it.

We follow the trio over a series of months, it's the run up to The Nutcracker and tensions as always are high but the intensity increases when a fire breaks out in one of the studios and the consequences are ones that I'm sure none of them could have ever imagined.

Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott's revelatory, mesmerizing, and game-changing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio, and an interloper who arrives to bring down the carefully crafted Eden-like facade.

A nervous energy flows everywhere. From the parents and their tiny dancers, to the family who teaches them. 

Everything seems to be holding on by an invisible thread.

As I read, I was wondering just who was going to crack underneath the pressure of it all and when that moment might finally come.

A slow pace throughout the book makes for a potent, compelling read. 

There is a cloud of gloom which overhangs over everything. From the upbringing of Dara, Marie and Charlie to the lives in which they now lead. I felt an overwhelming sorrow as I read. For the life they had as children to what they'd been left to trudge through as adults.

Heartbreaking is how I'd describe this story.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

Small yet meaningful moments all lead up to something explosive.

Use of ballet was rather genius. The comparison of the movements against how they were living their lives. 

Breaking, reshaping. 

Powerful yet fragile at the same time.

Almost difficult to review as I don't actually want to give away what transpires as I fear the story would lose the impact that it has when you first read it.

Themes of desire, obsession and jealousy with an insane sexual undercurrent combine to create a tale that draws you in steadily. I felt like a moth to a flame, not wanting to read too much at one time for fear of getting burnt.

The Turnout is a story not for the faint hearted. Delicately dark and hypnotic this is a novel that will stay in my mind for a while yet.


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