Review: Various Positions — Martha Schabas

Read: 73
To Go: 27

Book List
71. The Truth About Delilah Blue — Tish Cohen
72. Onstage, Offstage — Michael Buble
73. Various Positions — Martha Schabas

 Let me just have a temporary squee-ing moment here: I think I just might be able to finish my challenge after all. Possibly. Hopefully. I think I will have the time to do so (especially in December). Anyway…

Shy and socially awkward, and trapped between the confusing world of her friends and the dysfunctional world of her unhappy family, Georgia is only at ease when she’s dancing. When she is accepted into the exclusive Royal Toronto Ballet Academy, Georgia believes she has made the perfect escape. In ballet she thinks she will find the strength and control she lacks elsewhere in her life.

The illusion of control is quickly shattered by the school’s Artistic Director, Roderick Allen. As Roderick singles out Georgia as a star and subjects her to increasingly demanding training, Georgia obsesses about becoming his perfect ballerina, disciplined and sexless. Soon, cross-currents of power and blame come to an unsettling head in this dark and evocative debut.

It was unflinching. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it; at the times when lesser writers would have backed off, Schabas took us closer, magnified Georgia’s sexual development in all its discomfort. Every time I thought, and sort of hoped, I’d get a break from seeing Georgia obsess over if every man is a “perv,” by watching all of them on the subway, or be released from having to witness her make mountains out of molehills with her ballet teacher, I wasn’t given any respite. The reader was made to see every uncomfortable little thing, see how she blew it out of proportion for not knowing any better (and not having a really good role model to ask about sex), and there’s something impressive in that.

It was really, really difficult to read. Not because it was bad — on the contrary, it was fabulous. It was difficult because it was so unflinching. I winced my way through Georgia’s almost tragicomedy of mistakes, all the while admiring Schabas for an incredibly well-written debut.

Next book: either True Evil by Greg Iles or Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham

– Kelsey

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