How does a psychological thriller set in the cut-throat, yet very precise world of ballet sound? Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly is a wonderfully tense, sharp and immersive plunge into the power and determination of ballerinas to succeed – at any cost. All set to the backdrop of the iconic ballet, Swan Lake.
Opening sentence: Swan Lake, the eternal story of doomed love, is one of the most performed ballets in the world: a nineteenth-century Russian dance, based on a German fairytale.
I wouldn’t call myself a ballet fan per se but I have always had an admiration for it and do love watching the spectacular ways ballerinas can move their bodies. I was first introduced to a more dark and sinister side of ballet through Black Swan, the Natalie Portman film and Watch Her Fall is very much in this tone.
Ava Kirilov’s dream role
Broken into three acts with intervals to mimic an often used structure in ballets (including versions of Swan Lake) Watch Her Fall is set in a hot, sticky summer in London, which straight away establishes the oppressive atmosphere of the plot line brilliantly.
We get chapters from several character’s perspectives and follow the story of Ava Kirilov, Prima Ballerina at her tyrannical father’s esteemed dance company, the London Russian Ballet Company. She is rehearsing for the role of a lifetime as both Odette and Odile in Swan Lake and is under a lot of pressure.
Ballerinas in her father’s company are treated like disposable commodities and just because she is his daughter, does not mean Ava is immune from his wrath.
What they didn’t understand – what nobody understood – was that the higher you flew, the farther you had to fall.
A very dramatic series of events sees Ava suffer one of the worst case scenarios for a dancer: an injury. While recovering from her injury, Ava finds herself alone and isolated (the whole ballet company has gone on tour for Swan Lake) and she befriends the security guard of her exclusive gated community, Roman. This is when things in the story ramp up. Just who is Roman and what does he really want from Ava?
A dancer dies twice – once when they stop dancing, and this death is the more painful.martha graham
The truly stunning 32 fouettes
While reading, I was truly in awe of the physical demands ballerinas put on their body to produce dancing that looks so effortless. Erin Kelly does a brilliant job of capturing that side of a ballerina’s training and describing everything so that someone like me (with essentially no ballet knowledge) is learning while still totally engrossed.
I was particularly taken with this insanely impressive move from Swan Lake that is described so well in the book:
With the right performance in the right role, a ballerina could become immortal.
Watch Her Fall my first book by Erin Kelly and I really enjoy her writing style – concise, clever and truly enticing, she switches your perception in a flash, drops new plot points at the ideal moments and, yes, there are twists but they felt perfectly placed and gave me one or two truly jaw-dropping moments.
Ballet is the perfect backdrop for this high-stakes, high adrenaline read. I loved learning more about the inner-workings of the ballet world and the tone was pitched at just the right dark place to keep you turning those pages. I couldn’t wait to discover the truth about Ava’s story – an excellent psychological thriller!