When Natasha Ladanova arrives at the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg in 1911, she enters an exclusive world of hard work and glamour shared by other dance students. Chief among them is Sergei Maximov, a talented young man obsessed with his own performance and his ambition to choreograph for others.
During the revolution, Natasha flees Russia and her lover, a Grand Duke. A passionate interlude with Sergei in Paris ends when he abandons her, and the pregnant Natasha marries an American.
Natasha’s dancing abilities are inherited by one of her daughters, Tatania, who marries Sergei’s son and later battles back from polio to dance in films. Tatania’s daughter, Alysa, earns a place in the Manhattan Ballet company, where she dances for Sergei Maximov, the grandfather no one has ever mentioned to her.
A GRAND PASSION rises above the average historical novel for several reasons. Natasha remains a vibrant force throughout the book, tying together the generations and anchoring the plot.
The complexity of her love-hate relationship with Sergei continues until the closing paragraphs. Supporting characters are consistently well developed and interesting. Their lives are intertwined in ways that are complex but plausible.
The background of different cultures depicted over sixty years is well integrated. Mackey uses historical events to further her narrative without letting them dominate her plot and characters.
The world of ballet and modern dance comes alive for the reader: Even those who are not balletomanes will appreciate the passion and discipline necessary for the art.