New Fiction: Girl Through Glass – Sara Wilson

This debut is a moody, sinister, atmospheric novel. But while there is a mystery at the heart of it, I wouldn’t exactly call it a suspense novel. The plot revolves around a talented young ballerina singled out in ballet school by the legendary George Ballantine. An unnerving admirer becomes the Rumpelstiltskin-like Svengali to this young ballerina during a vulnerable period when her parents are involved in their own lives and marriage and much of the story is about the protagonist trying to come to terms with her past.

While I think many readers will be intrigued by the suspenseful “then-and-now” structure of the story as Mira (now Midwestern dance professor “Kate”) revisits her suppressed life, I was taken by the eye-opening job the author does of explaining how young competitive ballerinas feel and what drives them. Wilson describes much of young Mira’s experience through smell and motion, adding to the sensual, hot-house feel of the book.

The writing made me realize how many novels simply visualize the world for readers. As one is reading this story, Wilson instead puts you at ground zero of a world that is intense and intensely physical. In a nuanced way, she lets you inhabit the mind and body of a child as she develops the all-consuming drive to succeed as a dancer.

A warning for readers who want to like their characters: The main character here is so driven and ultimately so broken that she’s often hard to “like”. But I loved that. This is a story about a damaged woman finally trying to understand what happened to her as a child and become a complete adult.

Very nice advance reviews across the board and Wilson will be interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition on January 24th.


 “[A] uniformly engrossing look into the fabled world of hypercompetitive 1970s ballet. Mira and Maurice’s relationship has the fairy tale feel of Beauty and the Beast, but the pages brim with the realism of the gritty, crime-riddled New York, especially as the plot ricochets toward a surprising, and bittersweet, merging of Kate’s and Mira’s stories. Wilson writes lovingly of ballet and elevates the coming-of-age story with a dark undercurrent about the cost of obsession.”
Publishers Weekly

A nimble, nuanced psychological drama that leaps through time and place with an appropriate and assured agility…Wilson speaks with vibrant authority and acute vulnerability as she exposes the conflicted and competitive behind-the-scenes world of professional ballet.”
Booklist (starred review)

“An absorbing novel, rich with detail both about ballet and New York. Alongside the unusual setting of Mira’s realm of dance are the…emotional struggles of a young woman dealing with adolescence, complicated by precocious talent…For readers who appreciate complex characters and a carefully crafted style.”
   — Library Journal

“Wilson develops a compelling theme of loss and rebirth. Mira’s story is fueled by a rage that burns intensely; the sacrifice, the dark side of her pursuit, will touch readers to the core…This portrayal of a ballerina’s transformation and sacrifice burns with the beauty of fire: it’s powerful, it’s destructive, and it dares you to try and look away.”
   — Kirkus Reviews

Girl Through Glass (9780062326270) by Sari Wilson. $25.99 hardcover. 1/26/16 on sale.

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