Paris, 1878. Ballet dancer Marie van Goethem is chosen by the unknown artist Edgar Degas to model for his new sculpture: Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen Years.
But Marie is much more than she seems. By day she’s a ‘little rat’ of the opera, contorting her starving body to entertain the bourgeoisie. By night, she’s plotting to overthrow the government and reinstate the Paris Commune, to keep a promise she made to her father, a leading communard who died in the street massacres of 1871.
As Marie watches the troubling sculpture of herself come to life in Degas’ hands, she falls further into the intoxicating world of bohemian, Impressionist Paris, a world at odds with the socialist principles she has vowed to uphold.
With the fifth Impressionist Exhibition looming, a devastating family secret is uncovered which changes everything for both Marie and Degas. As Degas struggles to finish his sculpture and the police close in on Marie, she must decide where her loyalties lie and act to save herself, her family and the Little Dancer
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite. This would have been one for my review pile if I had been able to fit it in but instead I have an extract to share.
Tuesday, 23 May 1871 Montmartre, Paris
Halfway up Rue Lepic, on the eastern side where the narrow cobbled street snakes sharply to the right before climbing steeply up to the heights of Montmartre, there’s a small, tumbledown house jammed between two much larger ones, like an afterthought. Serge van Goethem, a Belgian tailor, lives here with his wife and two daughters.
Gigi van Goethem has not slept. She lay on her bed in her underclothes once the monstrous sound from the mitrailleuse, that infernal new fangled volley gun, down on Place Blanche finally stopped at around three or four in the morning, and nearly dropped off. But then her neighbour, Emma Béranger, rapped on the door to share a cup of wine and whisper the latest news between sips. The order is that nobody must leave their house until further notice. Batignolles has fallen, Clichy too. Only the eastern districts are holding strong. Thirty thousand Versaillais are approaching from the west. Dabrowski is dead. Emma must have seen the look on Gigi’s face because when they’d drained the cup Emma put her arm around Gig and assured her that there was still hope, that neither of their husbands’ names appeared on the latest list of fallen citizens.
It’s over, Gigi had muttered to herself as she peered through a broken blind and watched Emma run across the street back to the bakery. It’s over.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Leschallas holds MAs in Creative Writing from Sussex and in Drama and Movement Therapy from Central School in London as well as a BA(Hons) in French and Italian from Bristol University. She was trained as a dancer and worked at the Moulin Rouge in Paris during her twenties. Mel is also a jazz singer and loves to sing Jacques Brel songs at the Savoy Hotel in London. She runs www.lunarlemonproductions.com with her husband, Craig, teaches yoga in Brighton and leads wellness and writing retreats at her home in the Malaga mountains.
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